Graf’s Bag of Tricks

Meet the controversial far-right Austrian politician Martin Graf

This man is too valuable to be replaced yet.” Eric Frey, managing editor of Der Standard said wryly about recent calls for the resignation of Martin Graf, FPÖ MP for Vienna’s Donaustadt district and current Third Speaker of the Austrian Parliament.

Graf might well be the crippling factor for the FPÖ’s possible chances in the 2013 general elections, Frey asserted in a recent editorial, “Don’t Vote Down Graf”. It’s better that the controversial far-right politician be left where he is.

Since 2009, Martin Graf has faced numerous calls to resign, after some of his employees purchased neo-Nazi merchandise over the Internet and were involved in political violence in street protests against Graf’s opponents. However, the latest attempt by the Green Party to oust him on 13 June failed.

Ironically, the most recent criticism has come from a long-time FPÖ supporter, on “ORF Report” 23 May.

“Martin Graf has tricked me,” said 90-year-old Gertrud Meschar, claiming the FPÖ politician had diverted foundation money amounting to some €1.1 million to personal and political purposes. Until recently Graf, along with two other members of the FPÖ, had been on the board of Meschar’s private foundation.

But there’s more: Documents show Graf’s brother Michael, who runs the Café-Restaurant Graf in Vienna’s Billrothstraße, as  one of the “benefactors,” receiving money to cover unpaid rent. In 2008, Graf had engineered the sale of foundation holdings and taken out a €225,000 loan to purchase the property.

Another tenant of the Billrothstraße address is the 1848 Medienvielfalt Verlags GmbH that publishes the far-right blog, unzensuriert.at, and a glossy quarterly, run by Graf’s office manager.

Graf also listed himself as a “lawyer” when he ran for Parliament in 1995 and 1999, without ever having taken the bar exam.

In principle, Martin Graf’s removal from office would be a good thing for Austrian democracy. For Austria’s political future, however, his remaining in place offers the chance to politically expose the FPÖ’s agenda. Now that Graf has been confirmed as Strache’s deputy, he is doubly visible in the court of public opinion.

– MW

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