A Fischler/Androsch government in 2000 

Yesterday, a couple of months after the death of Austrian federal president Thomas Klestil, outgoing EU-commissioner Franz Fischler has revealed publicly [DE] for the first time that in early 2000 he received an offer from Klestil to lead an ÖVP-SPÖ government. The background is that both Klestil and Fischler were at the time outspoken opponents of the looming formation of an ÖVP-FPÖ government under Wolfgang Schüssel, which eventually went ahead against much domestic and international protest, propelling the far right FPÖ into government, and in the mid term, into steep decline.

Klestil's plan, according to Fischler, was to install Fischler as chancellor for the conservative ÖVP, and Hannes Androsch, the former SPÖ finance minister, vice chancellor, and rival of Bruno Kreisky, as vice-chancellor for the socialdemocrat SPÖ. This latter aspect is particularly surprising, since Androsch had long retired from active politics and turned into a successful industrialist. Fischler said yesterday that the fact that Androsch was not even a member of parliament made the project appear unacceptably undemocratic to him.

The disclosure adds a sore footnote to Kletil's legacy. A paternalistic Fischler-Androsch government, installed by the president against parliament, seems like a concept out of 1950s-1960s Austrian political history, and although as alternate history it is curious, I think it would have led to ugly upheavals in most conceivable scenarios. Fischler was right to decline, and also the moment of his disclosure is well chosen. As for Androsch, one has to wonder how active his involvement in this project was. If he conspired with Klestil, this would reveal an unhealthy appetite for a late revenge on Kreisky, even at the cost of discrediting his own party leadership, which would mean that Androsch's frequent interventions in the political debate should be treated with caution.

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