Fred Sinowatz

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Fred Sinowatz
Fred Sinowatz.jpg
Chancellor of Austria
In office
24 May 1983 – 16 June 1986
President Rudolf Kirchschläger
Deputy Norbert Steger
Preceded by Bruno Kreisky
Succeeded by Franz Vranitzky
Personal details
Born (1929-02-05)February 5, 1929
Neufeld an der Leitha, Austria
Died 11 August 2008(2008-08-11) (aged 79)
Vienna, Austria
Nationality Austrian
Political party Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ)
Religion Roman Catholicism[citation needed]

Alfred "Fred" Sinowatz (5 February 1929 – 11 August 2008) was born in Neufeld an der Leitha, Burgenland, Austria. He was an Austrian politician of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs, SPÖ), and was Chancellor of Austria from 1983 to 1986.

Career until 1983[edit]

Sinowatz, educated as a historian, was Minister of Education and Art in the Austrian government from 1971 to 1983. In 1981, when Bruno Kreisky's chosen successor "Crown Prince" Hannes Androsch was removed from his position, Sinowatz also became Vice Chancellor.

Sinowatz's chancellorship[edit]

After the SPÖ had lost its absolute majority in 1983 and Kreisky had resigned as chancellor, Sinowatz reluctantly took up the position of head of the Austrian government. He joined a coalition, initiated by Kreisky, with the Austrian Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ) which was then run by liberals.

In autumn 1983, he also succeeded Kreisky as chairman of the SPÖ.

In late 1984, came the severe internal crisis of the "Occupation of the Hainburg Floodplain" by thousands of people protesting against the building of a power station there. Sinowatz managed to calm both sides by announcing a "Christmas peace" on December 22, 1984, following considerable pressure from the public.

In spite of this, his period of office is not considered to have been successful. It started with the Wine Scandal, then a scandal concerning the construction of the new General Hospital of Vienna, and in particular, the crisis of the increasing debts of nationalized industry, above all the Voest-Alpine AG, an industrial concern based in Linz.

Since Sinowatz's manner was not very typical of that of politicians, he often earned pitiful smiles, for example, when he said, "Ich weiß, das klingt alles sehr kompliziert" ("I know, this all sounds complicated"), usually rendered as "Es ist alles sehr kompliziert" ("Everything is very complicated").

Close to the end of his period in office, he also came under pressure after defense minister Friedhelm Frischenschlager of his coalition partner, the Freedom Party, officially went to meet Walter Reder, a war criminal who had been imprisoned in Italy since World War II, upon Reder's return to Austria.

Waldheim Affair[edit]

Before the 1986 Austrian Presidential Elections, during a meeting of the steering committee of the Burgenland SPÖ, according to a later rendering by Ottilie Matysek, Sinowatz insinuated that one would have to point out to the Austrians that the Austrian People's Party's candidate, Kurt Waldheim, had a "brown" (i.e. Nazi) past. By an indiscretion, this remark was passed on to the weekly magazine profil, which started to investigate the matter. This triggered the Waldheim debate.

During the presidential campaign, Sinowatz strongly opposed Waldheim. When Waldheim gave assurances that he had not been a member of the Sturmabteilung Equestrian Corps, but had only joined its members in riding occasionally, Sinowatz countered: "I find that Kurt Waldheim never was a member of the SA, but only his horse."

After Waldheim's election, Sinowatz resigned and passed on his post as chancellor to finance minister Franz Vranitzky, who also succeeded him as chairman of the SPÖ in 1988; at the same time, Sinowatz also resigned as a member of the National Council of Austria.

Sinowatz sued Ottilie Matysek (who had by then left the SPÖ) for libel because of her statement concerning Waldheim's past. Even though all top representatives of the Burgenland SPÖ (including governor Johann Sipötz) gave testimony in his favor when he denied the accuracy of Matysek's depiction of the events, the court gave more weight to the authenticity of some hand-written notes and dismissed the suit. This also led to Sipötz's resignation.

Later life[edit]

In later life, Sinowatz lived in Burgenland.

Sinowatz died on 11 August 2008. He was 79 years of age. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living former Austrian chancellor.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Zeiler, Linda Martina,Was bleibt? Das politische Wirken und Vermächtnis von Dr. Fred Sinowatz (Frankfurt am Main u.a., Peter Lang, 2011) (Beiträge zur Neueren Geschichte Österreichs, 27).

See also[edit]

Note[edit]

  • This article draws heavily on the corresponding article in the German Wikipedia, as of 21 January 2005.
Political offices
Preceded by
Hannes Androsch
Vice Chancellor of Austria
1981–1983
Succeeded by
Norbert Steger
Preceded by
Bruno Kreisky
Chancellor of Austria
1983–1986
Succeeded by
Franz Vranitzky
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bruno Kreisky
SPÖ Party Chairman
1983–1988
Succeeded by
Franz Vranitzky