“as many as one million!”rnOn January 31, Austrians expressed their views on the HaiderrnVolksbegehren: 417,000 signatures were gathered, representingrn7.4 percent of the 5.6 million electorate. The “spin” given tornthe “Austria First” referendum results was that the “radicalrnright” in that nation had been given a resounding defeat, withrnthe European inquiring: “Is Austrian racism now in retreat?” Inrnthe immediate wake of the voting results, Germany’s FrankfurterrnAllgemeine Zeitung spoke of the “personal defeat” forrnHaider and called the outcome a “disaster.” The SuddeutschernZeitung claimed that Haider’s “latest lasso-swing at the voters”rnhad “nearly toppled him from his high horse.” Austria Todayrnwondered whether “populism” had reached “its limits.” Clearly,rnHaider erred by placing the victory hurdle of the referendumrntoo high, a violation of a basic principle of politics: never set arngoal you may not achieve (a parallel to the 1992 Buchananrncampaign in the wake of the initial New Hampshire primary returns).rnIn fact, as many of his opponents soon began to acknowledge,rnthe outcome of the January referendum was far from arndefeat for Jorg Haider. Critical to the results were the peculiarrnconditions under which the voting took place. Rather than byrnthe secret ballot of a conventional election, petition signaturesrnwere obtained in open venues such as banks, public offices, andrneven, in some cases, private residences and churches. A numberrnof Catholic Church prelates had gone on record opposingrnthe petition drive. Moreover, indications were that employeesrnand union members were often subject to intimidation regardingrntheir support for the Haider referendum. Certainly thernfact that a person was seen going to the balloting location at allrn(the process involved signing one’s name and address in contrastrnto a conventional referendum where one votes yes or no)rnplaced the individual’s decision in the public eye.rnWithin three days of the petition voting, a dramaticrnevent transpired, underscoring a fissure within thernranks of the FPO. Although the party leadership had backedrnthe “Austria First” mandate in November 1992 by a vote of 93rnto one, in opposition to the proposal was parliamentary leaderrnHeide Schmidt, the party’s popular former candidate for Austria’srnpresidency. Schmidt, along with four renegade colleaguesrn—including a longtime Haider associate and former defensernminister of Austria—chose to strike out on their own. InrnFebruary of this year, the “Liberal Forum” was established as arnnew political party. Schmidt, the protegee—who some evenrnterm the “creation” of Jorg Haider—had no doubt been emboldenedrnby her personal popularity and vote-attracting abilityrnduring the presidential election one year earlier.rnThe new breakaway political faction confronted both thernFreedom Party and the ruling coalition with a technical and politicalrnquandary. Schmidt, who was not only deputy partyrnleader but also third president of the parliament (secondrndeputy speaker) had privately complained about Haider’s autocraticrnleadership style. In turn, Haider had seen Schmidt asrnincreasingly developing a constituency derived strictly from attractionrnto her persona and not the party’s agenda. He describedrnher action as a welcome “throwing off of ballast.” A lossrnof five MP’s from the FPO’s 33 would be one thing, but insteadrnthe rebel group indicated they had no intention of simply vacatingrnthese seats; they would retain their places. According tornthe Austrian constitution, parliamentarv members serve byrnvirtue of a vote of their peers in the Nationalrat. Moreover, accordingrnto pariiament’s own rules, any five MP’s can form arnKlub, that is, an official political group. Furthermore, since arnmajority of the parliament must approve such a Klub only if itsrnmembers derive from several political parties, the Liberal Forumrnwas seated and accorded office space by simple applicationrnto the parliament. In response, Haider threatened to divide hisrnremaining 28 MP’s into five different Klubs, a maneuver hernwithdrew because he did not wish to have taxpayers incur therncosts that would thereby result.rnThe initial test of the new party came in the June regionalrnelections in so-called Lower Austria, a geographic area Ivingrnnorth of Carinthia and west of Vienna. Its 1.2 million voters offeredrnthe first election battle between the newly divided forcesrnof Haider and Schmidt. From the beginning, the personalitiesrnof the FPO leader and his former party colleague dominatedrnthe magazine pages and televised debates. When the resultsrnwere in, despite its absence of any formal organization and itsrnfielding of candidates at the last minute, the Liberales Forumrnhad emerged as a viable entity. What was also clear is that thernpopularity of the two dominant Austrian parties, the socialistsrnand conservatives, had continued to erode. By attaining 5.1rnpercent of the vote, it appeared likely that the new party wouldrnbe able to enter the national parliamentary elections slated forrnthe fall of 1994, as 5 percent nationwide is required to qualify.rnDespite the attention directed to Heide Schmidt’s Klub, thernbiggest gainer among Austria’s parties was the FPO: thernHaider-led contingent boosted its total by nearly three percent,rnwhile both major parties each fell by the same figure. In reviewingrnthe results of what Profil magazine termed the “historischernStunde” for Haider and Schmidt, a dual constituencyrnwas identified: the former increasingly centered on the “working-rnclass,” erstwhile socialist, voter, while the latter drew fromrnthe “yuppie” contingency, particularly from professional andrnurban women. In fact, the outcome seems tied to the peculiarrnelection rules in Austria that permit residents to vote in morernthan one local election. Many wealthy Viennese who alsornhae summer homes in Lower Austria thus carried their urbanrnviews to this mainly rural and small-town milieu.rnWhen 1993 began, academic analysts and the world mediarnhinted that Jorg Haider had reached his political apex. Ironically,rnSchmidt, as the pupil of Haider, appears to have learnedrnwell the lessons of populist-style politics, and she now stands tornbe an even more “anti-establishment” and underdog figurernthan her mentor. She has her own constituency apart fromrnHaider’s, and while in her presidential election bid she lost onethirdrnof loyal F P O supporters she gained a like proportion ofrnfollowers from outside the regular party ranks. Yet, many observersrnstill see little substance to her Liberal Forum.rnWithin the FPO, a fissure has developed exposing the faultrnline that has always divided its traditional nationalist wingrnfrom its “economically liberal” sector (the latter strongly in favorrnof E.C. membership, the former resistant). Such nationalistrnopposition threatens to alienate major sectors of the businessrncommunity. Haider himself may have lost support because ofrnhis “hard line” on E.C. membership: he urges Austria not to bernan eager supplicant, but to hold out for tough negotiations onrnsuch topics as environmental standards, immigration, and agriculturalrnpolicies.rnWhat was so remarkable at the outset of Haider’s demarchernon the immigration issue was the eagerness of the socialist andrnconservative party leaders to meet with Haider to discuss his 12rnpoints so as to prevent the actual circulation of the initiative.rn28/CHRONICLESrnrnrn