Cavaliere Stronach enters the race

Opinion | Vienna Review | September 2012

"I will use my own money to explain the truth." Frank Stronach’s message in the ORF Zeit im Bild interview on 3 July was unmistakable: The 80-year-old Austro-Canadian billionaire will finally enter Austria’s political stage with his own party. The negotiations with other political parties for joint candidacy – either the Conservative ÖVP or the far-right BZÖ – have failed. So, Stronach will spice up the upcoming general election in 2013 with his $1.2 billion U.S. fortune. The tabloid press is rejoicing, and running headline after headline. It’s the beginning of a media hype.

By mid-August, the Magna-founder "acquired" the support of three Austrian MPs – though he was quick to assure the public that no money was involved. The number, as well as their former political affiliations, is significant insofar as political parties not represented in the Austrian Parliament need the support of three MPs to allow a nation-wide candidacy – or the collection of 2,600 support signatures. A hurdle, many of the recently founded political parties often fail to overcome.

Among Stronach’s newly recruited associates are the former Carinthian Social Democrat and Mayor of Spittal an der Drau, Gerhard Köfer, as well as the two former BZÖ MP renegades, Robert Lugar and Erich Tadler. Karin Prokop, the daughter of former ÖVP Interior Minister Liese Prokop, in charge of candidate selection, announced in an interview with Der Standard on 24 August that more prominent names will be added to the list shortly – besides Stronach, of course.

This is certainly reminiscent of Berlusconi-esque political tactics, as Stronach once provided sanctuary for former Austrian politicians in the management of his Austrian Magna operations. However, Stronach’s motivation, unlike the Italian Cavaliere, is not a plan to evade taxes, but to make a major impact on Austrian politics. Stronach has set his sights at winning no less than 30% of the popular vote and even the Austrian Chancellery. This is not his new party’s agenda (yet) – it is still being revised. It’s just another headline.

– MW

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