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Austria

Yearbook 2008

Austria. A new revelation about slave-like captivity in the middle of a residential neighborhood shook the Austrians just two years after the fall of 18-year-old Natascha Kampusch, who managed to escape after being locked up for eight years. In April, 73-year-old Josef Fritzl was arrested in Amstetten after it was discovered that he had held his daughter captive for 24 years in the basement, where he had abused her. Elisabeth, who was 18 when she was locked up, gave birth to seven children. Three of them had been kept in the basement and never seen daylight, while three had grown up with the family in the house, without knowledge of the prisoners in the basement. Josef Fritzl had led his wife and authorities to believe that Elisabeth had joined a religious sect and left the children on the stairs to the parents' house. One seventh child had died at an early age. In November, charges were brought against Josef Fritzl for, among other things, murder, slavery and rape.

2008 Austria

In early July, the government collapsed when the conservative ÍVP withdrew from the coalition formed in early 2007. ÍVP and the Social Democratic SPÍ - the two major parties - had had a hard time agreeing on, among other things, health care, taxes, pensions and education. Even before the government collapsed and a new election was announced, Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer had left the SPÍ leadership post following internal criticism that he had allowed ÍVP too much dominance. New SPÍ leader became Transport Minister Werner Faymann.

According to Countryaah reports, the re-election on September 28 became a stinging defeat for the departing government parties; together they lost almost 15 percentage points. SPÍ received 29 percent and ÍVP 26 percent of the votes. The right-wing populists in both the FPÍ and the outbreak party BZÍ progressed to the same degree and together received support from 28 percent of the voters. Thus, the situation was very similar to that which occurred in 1999, when the right-wing populists led by J÷rg Haider advanced strongly and took office in the government. At that time, the rest of the EU boycotted Austria for a period.

Almost two weeks after the election, J÷rg Haider died in a car accident. The investigation showed that he was driving heavily intoxicated at the double speed allowed on a 70-lane road. He received a hero's funeral in his home state of Carinthia. The controversial politician continued to arouse reactions after his death when it was reported that he had visited a gay club before the car accident. The party mate Stefan Petzner, who was first mentioned as a successor, spoke of Haider as the "man of my life" and the party then appointed two other members as party leaders and group leaders in parliament.

In November, a new government coalition was formed between Social Democrats and the People's Party ÍVP. Chancellor became the new SPÍ leader Faymann, who agreed with newly-appointed ÍVP leader Josef Pr÷ll on a new spirit of cooperation.

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