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Austrians Celebrate Schwarzenegger's Election Victory - 2003-10-08

Arnold Schwarzenegger's victory in California Tuesday has sent a wave of patriotic pride though his native Austria. Many Austrians hope the victory of their native son will translate into new business opportunities for Austria.

Austrian president Thomas Klestil and conservative chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel were among the first to congratulate Arnold Schwarzenegger on his election as governor of California.

Jörg Haider, the far-right populist governor of Carinthia, also joined the chorus of fans who expressed their sense of pride that an Austrian of humble background is now governor of the fifth largest economy in the world.

And Austrian businesses are hoping for profitable contracts from California.

Mr. Schwarzenegger's home state of Styria is in need of an economic fillip (boost). The capital, Graz, has just announced a 700 million euro (about $820 million) deficit, and severe cutbacks in public spending and a loss of jobs are expected.

Styrian produce includes wine, pumpkins and wafer biscuits that recently featured in the Terminator 3 movie. Local businesses hope these products will end up on California dinner tables as well.

But Styria is also looking to develop the computer industry with Californian partners. The Styrian tourist board says Mr. Schwarzenegger's campaign led to an influx of American tourists in search of Arnie's birthplace. An all-night governor's party in Graz drew a huge crowd of well wishers and world television crews.

The party was attended by the conservative governor of Styria, Waltraud Klasnic, a personal friend of Mr. Schwarzenegger.

She says from the point of view of Styria and the homeland it is a source of pride that Arnold has achieved so much.

Ms. Klasnic is tipped as a possible candidate for next year's presidential election in Austria.

But her lack of English and international contacts were seen as handicaps to her election.

Thanks to the voters of California, however, that may change, and a candidate from Styria who counts Mr. Schwarzenegger among her friends and possible supporters, will be going into the presidential balloting with a good deal more clout.