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2005-09-13

Political corruption no reason for regret, says regional governor 

It's one of those stories that makes me think that the title of this weblog is spot on. At the height of the regional election campaign in Austria's Styria region, the governing conservative ÖVP is in trouble as more and more details of murky financial transactions in the direction of ÖVP-renegade Hirschmann, who is contesting the elections with his own party, come to the surface. Frankly, the whole story is too complex to be worth explaining it here in detail. Roughly, Hirschmann used to be the right hand of provinicial governor Waltraud Klasnic, but was shunned after infighting. To shut him up, circles close to Klasnic engineered money transfers worth several hundred thousand euro - to no avail, as Hirschmann chose to campaign against Klasnic regardless. Hirschmann himself comes out of the affair badly enough, and against earlier expectations his list may fail to clear the threshold for representation in the regionaly assembly, although it looks likely that he will succeed in his primary objective of revenge against Klasnic, costing her the governor job (in favour of the socialdemocrat SPÖ). The nominally communist KPÖ, which came out of nowhere with a christian-inspired campaign slogan of "To give is better than to take" (see my earlier report and discussion in the comments), is now seen at 10% in Styrian polls.

The truly remarkable part is this: Klasnic was forced yesterday to admit that she had personally asked "12-15 contacts", among them fellow ÖVP governors of other regions as well as the office of the federal chancellor, to give contracts to the public relations company Hirschmann set up after being forced out of politics. The governor of Tyrol stated [DE] that upon Klasnic's intervention he had asked the boss of a local utility company to give a contract to Hirschmann, but the governor was proud to add that he immediately had these activities cancelled as Hirschmann declared his candidature. An admission of corruption as clear as water. And this is what Klasnic had to say [DE] about her interventions for Hirschmann, which she admits in the same statement:
Back then there was no word of a candidature. I have nothing to blame myself for.

[Damals war von einer Kandidatur keine Rede. Ich habe mir nichts vorzuwerfen.]
Mrs. Klasnic is apparently honestly convinced that as long as there is no open discussion of a purpose of bribery, the process of a regional governor trying to engineer public procurement outside of legal tenders, but rather based on political preferences of the moment, is perfectly normal, perfectly acceptable and "nothing to blame herself" for. That's a lack of decency that I and many other simple-minded people find breathtaking, even after decades of experience with this country. Well deserved if this costs her the job.

Meanwhile political insider Sabine Gretner who is campaigning for a seat on the Vienna city council as a blogger on the multi-party wahlblog.at, wrote this jewel [DE] of a sentence about her future colleagues:
Some of the "professionals" [longtime members of the Vienna city council] have nothing but media talent, others have good instincts, several have experience, and many stay on the city council out of habitude.

[Manche der „profis“ haben nur ein mediales talent, andere einen guten riecher, einige erfahrung und viele bleiben aus gewohnheit im gemeinderat.]
Lucky us that have such politicians.


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