Billionaire eurosceptic aims to be Austrian chancellor

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 17, 2012 5:31 AM
Billionaire eurosceptic aims to be Austrian chancellor

VIENNA (Reuters) - A billionaire auto parts magnate who wants Austria to abandon the euro has thrown his hat into the ring to be the country's next chancellor, saying he thought his party could get as much as 30 percent of the vote in elections due next year.

Frank Stronach's party is so new that it still has no name and its support remains so far in single figures. The 80-year-old is seeking to tap growing bailout fatigue in wealthy northern European countries and could turn the election into a de facto vote on Austria's future in Europe.

"I will make myself available as the top candidate. Of course I will take part in the campaign," the Austro-Canadian businessman told newspaper WirtschaftsBlatt in an interview published on Monday, confirming for the first time he intended to head his party's list.

He said he thought his party could realistically get between 20 and 30 percent of the vote. Opinion polls show him close to 10 percent, far behind the governing Social Democrats on about 28 percent and their conservative OVP coalition partners on slightly more than 20 percent.

The far-right Freedom Party, also a vocal critic of bailing out struggling euro zone nations and using taxpayer funds to finance the zone's ESM rescue fund, gets about 20 percent in polls.

Stronach, a rags-to-riches entrepreneur who founded the Magna auto supply empire, has made headlines by suggesting Austria return to the schilling. He reiterated that line in the newspaper interview.

"Each (euro zone) country can have its own euro that will be valued according to its economic might. There should be flexible exchange rates and the currency will rise or fall depending on how well or poorly a country performs economically," he said, calling for European monitoring of money supply in each country.

"If this can't be implemented then we should return to the schilling."

Stronach attacked the European Central Bank's (ECB) plan to buy bonds of euro zone countries that apply for a rescue program.

"Unlimited bond-buying is a danger for the strong currency countries because the ECB is for the most part in the hands of the weak currency countries. They are getting their hands on the money we saved," he complained.

He said it would be better for all concerned if debt-strapped Greece exited the euro zone, devalued its currency and regained competitiveness.

He called for introducing a flat tax in Austria and added: "Companies that invest their profits in Austria should pay no tax because this creates jobs."

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Pravin Char)