The Strache era is finally over, the former head of the FPÖ has completely withdrawn from politics, is no longer a member of the party and his wife probably will not get a parliamentary mandate as she had planned.
Thus, this phase of the FPÖ is history, as before with the era of [Jörg] Haider, the era of [Norbert] Steger and the era of Friedrich Peters. In the aftermath, however, the Freedom Party community will probably have to suffer for a long time to come.
While corruption probes from the Haider era continue to run, so will the excesses of the former party leader [Heinz Christian] Strache, as well as the background of the criminal campaign that was carried out against him, continue to occupy the courts in Austria for a long time.
However, the so-called “Third Camp”, the nationally-minded community and the FPÖ as the third force in the Austrian parliament, still holding 16 percent of the votes, are far from experiencing their final days.
It must continue to represent its constituents and face the problems it has chosen to solve: it must stand up for the maintenance of the country’s ethnic-cultural identity as it has grown historically, and against mass immigration. It must demand justice, order and security in the country and it must uphold the banner of freedom – that of the individual as well as that of the community.
For this purpose, however, it must re-establish itself in a political and moral sense. The party has to draw up rules and narrowly adhering to them. The grievances that have occurred previously in the Strache era and in the Haider era must be prevented. The self-enrichment of mandatories and officials must simply be made impossible, corruption must be handled with the utmost transparency and with the best possible control, it should become absolutely unthinkable. And the advocacy of real Freedom Party content and ideological principles must be guaranteed.
Whether one can rely on the previous political and strategic recipes for this purpose, must be questioned. Both the Haider-FPÖ and the Strache-FPÖ were centre-right parties that put their respective top men in the media with propaganda absolutely in the centre. The party has to some extent popularized them as cult stars.
However, this cult stardom obviously implies that a party leader may become tempted to forget about moral principles and put aside the welfare of the party as well as the public good for one’s own ego. Neither Jörg Haider nor Heinz-Christian Strache were or are bad people, they were only – apparently – at least in certain aspects, tempted by what a cult stardom implies.
Perhaps the FPÖ should now rely on a comradely and more collective model of leadership. Perhaps it should avoid overly populist political announcements and rather orientate themselves politically.
Or perhaps it should pursue a tough opposition policy, but not become fundamentalist. And perhaps beyond the party’s political calculus, they should also support a reform policy in the interest of the state as a whole, even if they themselves are not the initiators of those reforms.
The Freedom Party community were and are role models for other right-wing patriotic parties across Europe. Their successes, but also their problems, as we experienced them at the end of the Haider era and now at the end of the Strache era, should be both good and bad examples and warnings for these other European parties.
In particular, the German AfD should be learning a lot from observing the development of Austrian FPÖ. If one wants to fulfill the political task demanded by voters in the sense of rights and freedom, patriotism and maintenance of an historically-grown identity of native people, one must represent only the highest morals and ethical standards – much more so than the representatives of other political groups would.
The persecution, denunciation and meticulous observation of the nonconformist parties such as the FPÖ, but also their European sister parties are merciless. In this sense, Austria’s Freedom Party people should subject themselves to yet another learning process through a political restart endeavour – also for the sake of the country and for its people.