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Austria's Haider 'Deeply Hurt' by 'Terrible' Showing of Freedom Party in Sunday Vote - 2002-11-25

Austrian extreme-rightist politician Joerg Haider says he intends to resign as a state governor, and might withdraw from politics, following his Freedom Party's poor performance in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

Mr. Haider told an Austrian radio interviewer he was "deeply hurt" by what he called his party's "terrible" performance in Sunday's election. Support for the party was reduced by two-thirds, to just 10 percent.

Although he is not technically the leader of the Freedom Party, his influence is substantial. During the campaign Mr. Haider aroused controversy by travelling to Iraq to meet with Saddam Hussein.

He told the radio station of Carinthia, where he is governor, that he has had his fill of politics.

Mr. Haider has been governor since 1999 when he won more than 42 percent of the vote. His previous term as governor ended in 1991 when he was voted out of office after praising the employment policies of Adolf Hitler.

Mr. Haider has offered to resign before, but always changed his mind at the request of party leaders. Asked if he might reconsider his decision this time, he said, "that would be difficult".

A former senior official of the Freedom Party, Peter Westenthaler, says it is time for the party to move to a post-Haider era. Mr. Westenthaler resigned his leadership post in September in a dispute with Mr. Haider.

In Sunday's election, the conservative People's Party of Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel received 42 percent of the vote. The Social Democrats were second with about 37 percent and the Freedom Party was third. The Greens Party was fourth at about nine percent.