Proxy Politics in the FPÖ

Philippa Strache, wife of disgraced ex Vice-Chancellor H-C Strache, has long played a supporting role to her husband's ambitions.  Now she may be about to launch a political career of her own.

Striking, angular good looks, straight blonde hair falling softly to her shoulders – perfect casting for a U.S. trophy politico spouse. But this is Austria, where political wives are far more discreet.

Or are they? Philippa Strache is the wife of Heinz-Christian Strache, lately Vice-Chancellor in the Kurz government until his disastrous role in the Ibiza-gate video scandal forced him to resign May 18. She is now widely expected to stand in the September parliamentary elections.

Interviewed by Nicki Fellner in the daily Österreich, Strache II revealed that FPÖ chairman Norbert Hofer had offered her the second position on their Vienna list for the upcoming election, an almost certain shoo-in given the party’s steady support even in the socialist bastion of Vienna.  

Family Affairs

At first glance, this looks like another example of power retention via a proxy spouse – the great political clans of Butto and Nehru in India, the Kirchners and Perons in Argentina, and dozens in the U.S: Congress (LINK). Since H.C. (Strache) joined the government, Philippa had worked tirelessly to help polish his loving-husband-and-father profile: Endless photos show her at his side, elegant on formal occasions, in folksy dirndl at party Bierfests, gazing adoringly at the great man.

After their son was born in January, H.C. took the Papamonat (paternity leave), an interesting step for a macho right-wing politician – and Philippa was soon telling interviewers about his fatherly dedication, nappy-changing and all.

But then, Ms. Strache is no newcomer to politics. Beginning as secretary in the center-left SPÖ, she was press officer for the right-wing Team Stronach and has carved out a niche for herself as point person for animal rights, women’s and family affairs in the hard-right FPÖ.

She is already embroiled in her first political fist-fight with Vienna’s formidable Ulli Sima (SPÖ), over a proposal to put down unlicensed dogs on the dangerous race list. “You can make fun of the FPÖ,” wrote Fabian Schmid in the daily Der Standard June 14, “but not of Philippa Strache.”  

Politics First

This gives her a breadth of political experience and savvy rare in a first time parliamentary candidate. Political opponents pounced on Hofer’s offer of a seat in the National Assembly as a deal of convenience: H.C. Strache would save his party the embarrassment of taking his designated seat in Strasbourg (EU) parliament and she would keep the family name in the political limelight – while receiving a decent income to compensate for her husband’s loss of job.  

She brushed off the criticism: “There are always people out there who see everything negatively,” she told Fellner Jr., “but I’m used to it; you just have to get on with it.” That sounds like a political pro already.

Simon Ballam
English, studied in NY and worked in London, Düsseldorf, NY, Fankfurt, Prague and Vienna. This covered stints in market research and the film industry, international advertising coordination and strategic planning. Currently business school lecturer and journalist.


You like local independent journalism in English? So do we!

To keep providing you with current news, insights, opinion and Schmäh about our shared hometown, we need your help.
We chose to provide our daily coverage for free, because we believe in equal access to information. And we want to be independent from our advertisers, so we can deliver the news that you want. With your help, we can keep giving you the open, independent journalism you deserve.

Don’t let the advertisers win!


If you’re able, please support Metropole today from as little as €1
or choose an amount:

RECENT Articles

3 Ways to Swear Like a Real Wiener

Entire books have been written about the ingenious ways the Viennese swear, rant, yammer and nag. And we know how to help you get acquainted with the high art of Viennese swearing.

The Burgtheater’s (im)Perfect Crib

Real time surtitles in German and English now make it possible for non-German speakers and the hard of hearing to enjoy Vienna’s greatest stage. But maybe you don’t need them.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Empress Elisabeth “Sissi” of Austria

Better known by her nickname “Sissi,” she has captured the hearts of the public ever since she was immortalized by actress Romy Schneider in a trilogy of 1950s romantic comedies.

Donald Tusk’s Clear Voice

Welcoming to Scotland, the perennial European is not about to leave the political stage.

“Mein Fall” | Austrian Writer Tells of Sexual Abuse

As a choirboy at the Zwettl Monastery in the 1960s, novelist Josef Haslinger was regularly assaulted by his superiors. Now he wrote about it.

Passing the Baton

The Vienna Theatre Project meditates on MLK’s last night on earth in Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop.”

5 Anti-Valentine’s Day Movies | It’s Difficult to Love

If the most saccharine of holidays is starting to get to you, here are five sobering – some would say more realistic – portrayals of human emotion.

Keeping It Together

Ken Loach takes on the human cost of the gig economy in his latest film, "Sorry We Missed You".