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When the late Joerg Haider, the hard-right populist governor of the southern Austrian state of Carinthia, sold most of his government's stake in Hypo Group Alpe Adria in 2007, he said, beaming: "Ladies and Gentlemen, Carinthia is rich."
BayernLB, which like many other German landesbanken appears to have never met a toxic asset it didn't like, had just paid 1.65 billion euros for a 50 percent stake in Hypo. Around half of that went into Haider's government's coffers.
True to his pork-barrel politics, Haider used the funds to, among other things, subsidise Carinthian teenagers' driving licence fees, scrap kindergarten fees, and pay out cash to Carinthian families to "offset inflation" in 2008, conveniently timed shortly before an election.
This worked to cement Haider's image as the generous leader looking after the man on the street. But since his death in a car crash last year, it shows that the basis of this policy was not sustainable. Hypo is now in urgent need of another year-end emergency capital injection of more than 1 billion euros, after it went cap in hand to the Austrian government and BayernLB for 1.6 billion euros last year already.
Some 25,000 people attended his funeral, countless books have been written about him, a bridge was named in his honour and now the spectre of Austrian far-right leader Joerg Haider is dominating a regional election in Austria.
He may have died in a car crash last month whilst drunk, but Austrian rightist Joerg Haider is not gone.
Haider, who was enmeshed in nearly every part of Austrian political life, is now being hailed for his efforts to help two Austrian hostages being held in the Sahara months before his death.
Just when you thought his story couldn’t get more dramatic — he died on Oct. 11 in a high-speed car crash while drunk — we now learn that Haider, who was married with two daughters, was not only a populist who polarised the public with remarks about Nazism and immigrants, but might have been gay too.