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The Schüssel Era in Austria

 | 
Günter Bischof
, 
Fritz Plasser

I. Personality and Leadership

Governing with Right-Wing Populists and Managing the Consequences: Schüssel and the FPÖ

Kurt Richard Luther

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Introduction

On 22 April 1995, Wolfgang Schüssel became the third leader in six years of the Österreichische Volkspartei (ÖVP). It had a relatively poor record of achieving its electoral and governmental goals. Since 1970, the party had come second in all national elections to the Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs (SPÖ) and from 1986 had suffered a seemingly inexorable erosion of its vote share to the benefit of the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ). After seventeen years in opposition, it had in 1987 finally returned to government, albeit as the SPÖ’s junior coalition partner. During Schüssel’s twelve-year leadership — the longest of any ÖVP chairman — the party obtained 42.3 percent of the vote at the 2002 election, its best result for nearly twenty years. Moreover, by the time of his resignation on 9 January 2007, Schüssel could look back on virtually seven years as federal chancellor, towards the end of which the ÖVP had been able to operate as though it were the sole g...

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