In 2002, internal party differences led to an extraordinary delegates’ conference in Knittelfeld. There, Jörg Haider initially wanted to resume the leadership of the FPÖ, but in the event, this meeting brought about the end of the so-called “Government of Change” (Wende-Regierung) and new elections, at which the FPÖ suffered heavy losses.
After Jörg Haider had handed over the leadership of the federal party to Vice-Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer in 2001, differences between the Carinthian Governor and the new Federal Party Chairwoman intensified. Haider wanted to shape the work of the government from his base in Klagenfurt, and because of the preponderance of the ÖVP within the government, Susanne Riess-Passer found it difficult to implement genuine FPÖ policies.
Jörg Haider contemplated resuming the leadership of the party and pursuing a hard line vis-à-vis the ÖVP, the FPÖ’s coalition partner. To this end, he convened an assembly of party delegates in Knittelfeld, Styria, on 7 September 2002.
After the assembly in Knittelfeld, Susanne Riess-Passer and her FPÖ government colleagues resigned their functions. Haider chose not to stand for election as party leader after all. With an eye on his party’s good poll ratings, ÖVP Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel used the leadership weakness of the FPÖ to end the coalition and to hold premature National Council elections.
The result: the FPÖ lost almost two thirds of its electorate and could only enter another coalition with the ÖVP as a severely-weakened junior partner. This was the seed of further massive party-internal disputes and of Jörg Haider’s subsequent splitting away from the FPÖ with the BZÖ.
Further article: From black-blue to party crisis.
Here is the film.