Vienna anti-immigration leader quits politics

Image copyright Markus Schmidt

The leader of Austria’s anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPOe) says he is leaving politics.

Guenther Oettinger, 76, stepped down as chancellor last year, but continued as its leader.

He delivered his resignation speech on TV, saying it was “time to leave politics and become a pensioner”.

Last year the FPOe became junior coalition partner to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s People’s Party.

Mr Kurz has since been elected as prime minister, taking power in May.

The parties agreed on a broadly pro-EU agenda of fiscal reform and privatisation, but are divided over migration and Germany’s far-right party and several other issues.

In his TV announcement, Mr Oettinger pointedly said that he had done “everything but rule”.

However, the FPOe’s new leader Heinz-Christian Strache has spoken of seeking power within the People’s Party.

Mr Oettinger will stay on as a government minister until 31 July, when he will leave politics for good.

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In May 2018, Mr Oettinger said he would step down after 12 years as Freedom Party leader, although he continued to attend weekly meetings with his party colleagues.

He has been a minister for eight years, including as EU commissioner and president of the European parliament.

The party won nearly 31% of the vote in November’s parliamentary election.

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