HC Strache, former vice chancellor of Austria and long-term leader of the Freedom Party (FPÖ) reveals his future plans in an exclusive FWM interview.
Mr Strache, since the “Ibiza affair” and the end of the black-blue Austrian federal government, you have been at the centre of many bigger and smaller scandals. It seems as if everyone is currently trying to dump everything on you. Can we put it that way?
Strache: Yes, they obviously want to force me on my knees by means of a modern witch hunt, but that will not succeed. Some people are afraid of me and my team in Vienna being an election success. But I’ve been at the top in politics for 15 years now, so I have already acquired a thick skin.
I am disappointed by most of the media, which obviously use a different standard for HC Strache than for other politicians. If one had reported about Ischgl – where human lives have been deliberately endangered [by ignoring the Covid-19 issue, ed.] – as critically as about Ibiza, there would have been a wave of resignations in the government.
But with the new Austrian government, journalists often do not like to look so closely. Unfortunately, there are some who organise a contest of cheap tricks and drag others through the mud. But I don’t play along with that.
Despite the storm around you, you have decided to take part in the Vienna elections in autumn with your new political group. Critics accuse you of being only interested in “retaliation”. What drives you to get back into politics?
Strache: Those who are guided by such base motives as retribution should rather not enter politics. The programme of my new movement is based on the political aims I already set out in 2005, but with a lot more experience.
In Austria, policies are increasingly being pursued that incapacitate people and then patronize them. At the same time they are excluded from all important decisions: To this day, for example, decisions on migration issues are made over people’s heads.
I represent a policy in which the people are really treated as sovereign, and hopefully I am also reaching many who were hesitant in the past regarding the FPÖ. For me, the founding of the party is not an act of revenge, but an attempt to offer those values that are dear to the hearts of freedom-loving Austrians in search of a true political home.
What are the differences compared to the FPÖ?
Strache: There are some additions to the programme, especially in the structure of the new movement. In recent years we have seen all over the world that in dynamic democracies the time of rigid cadre parties is over. People are better informed and want to be in direct contact with their political representatives as much as possible.
Thanks to social media, this has now also become possible. The impulses in Team HC Strache rely on the grassroots level and not top-down, as managers would say. We try to revive the true values of freedom which are personal responsibility combined with solidarity between the people.
In this aim we are open to all who want to participate in such a project. Apart from that, the course of the FPÖ over the last years was the Strache course, and I am now continuing this with my new movement.
At the moment the “Kickl-Hofer-FPÖ” is like a ship without sails – no programme, no ideas, no vision. Herbert Kickl and Norbert Hofer are good at a supporting role but they are not able to lead: It’s a “double leadership” with half the effect. That is why they fail at elections. From minimum pensions to the UN migration pact, the name HC Strache stands for the implementation of policies related to freedom. Anyone who wants to see this continued, knows who should be given the vote.
How is the organization of your party coming along? Critics claim it’s a one-man show…
Strache: We are still in the construction phase, and of course I take a central role there. But in reality, a growing number of supporters are gathering in the background. Our declared goal is to have a party that involves top people, competent in offering solutions in the political process. Many of our best candidates have no experience in politics and are therefore still reluctant to get involved. But hopefully this will change in the coming months.
Do you see a long-term way back to the FPÖ for yourself and your party?
Strache: Political parties are vehicles to transport and convey values. I am convinced that most voters will quickly see through the fact that under Hofer and Kickl the true values of freedom have no place in the FPÖ and will seek the alternative.
For me, the founding of the party is not an act of revenge, but an attempt to offer those values that are dear to freedom-loving, patriotic Austrians, giving them another political home, with social competence, with heart and soul. Should the FPÖ at some point reconsider and embrace precisely those values under a new leadership, there would certainly be opportunities for cooperation, but at the moment that is unfortunately still ruled out.
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