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Austria Heading for Early Elections - 2002-09-09

Austria's Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel has announced the resignation of his entire cabinet and called for early elections. Mr. Schuessel made the decision after his vice chancellor and other ministers from the far-right Freedom Party announced their resignations.

Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said he will ask his party to dissolve parliament next week. He said he will ask parliament to call elections "as soon as possible" and suggested that Austria needs more stable leadership.

The Austrian Chancellor made his announcement following the resignations of key ministers from his coalition partner, the far-right Freedom Party. They included the Freedom Party leader, Vice Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer.

The vice chancellor said the resignations were necessary because of a conflict with her party's former leader Joerg Haider, known for his comments defending the Hitler era.

Mr. Haider stepped down as party leader in February 2000 under international pressure. Now, he is leading a revolt in the party against Ms. Riess-Passer.

Mr. Haider and other extreme right-wingers in the party were particularly angry at a delay in tax cuts that Ms. Riess-Passer had agreed to accept.

Mr. Haider, who is the governor of Carinthia Province, has said that he will not participate in national politics. But several commentators in Austria are suggesting that he may change his mind.

Analysts say that whatever he decides, Mr. Haider will remain influential.