Martin Engelberg: „The Waldheim-Era Was Important“

Die Presse, August 20, 2017

German original:

The psychoanalyst Martin Engelberg will run for the ÖVP on October 15. Why he supports Sebastian Kurz – and why he is not afraid of a “black and blue” coalition-remake (between the Austrian People’s party and the Freedom Party).


Die Presse: How is your run for the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) received in the Jewish Community?

Martin Engelberg: Surprisingly positive based on reactions to my announcement on Facebook.

But there were critical voices as well.
Yes, of course. But an estimated two thirds of the comments were positive and encouraging

The relationship between the Jewish Community and the ÖVP in the past was not free of friction.
The relationship with the political parties in general was not free of friction. There were times during which the Social Democrats (SPÖ) were an absolute no-go within the Community.

How did you personally see the Waldheim- campaign and the black and blue era? [Editors Note: the Schüssel administrations from 2000 – 2007, two coalition governments of the ÖVP with the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) and its spin-off, the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ), respectively]
I personally was never close to a political party, but I did have sympathies for certain personalities, like Franz Vranitzky, Sepp Pröll, and now Sebastian Kurz. I now go a step further; I become part of a political movement.

You evaded the question elegantly. How did you see the Waldheim era?
The Waldheim-era was very important for Austria because it marks a historical turning point. As far as the dealings with Austrian history and anti-Semitism are concerned, there is a time before Waldheim and a time after Waldheim.

And black & blue? Did you protest against it?
No, I was already on the Board of the Jewish Community at that time and was part of those who said let’s see what comes our way.

You probably were in the minority.
Possibly. But I was confirmed because this administration did so many positive things for the Community like no one before.

In 2012 you said during an interview with Die Presse, if black and blue makes a comeback, you would „distance“ yourself. What will you do if the ÖVP forms a coalition government with the FPÖ again after the election on October 15?
For now it is important that the Liste Sebastian Kurz performs as strongly as possible at the polls, because the stronger it is, the more options it has. That is the primary goal for me at this point.

But black and blue is not an unlikely scenario.
I am not sure if I would like a mixture of the slogans „take what you want“ and „you will be surprised what is possible“ [Editor’s note: a play on a current campaign slogan by the SPÖ anda comment previously made by FPÖ presidential candidate Norbert Hofer].

So you would not have a problem with a coalition with the FPÖ?
Again: It is important that Liste Kurz gets as many votes as possible and has a lot of options. The chairman has demonstrated that he deals with issues like right-wing leanings and anti-Semitism in a sensible manner. I have a lot of trust.

What does Sebastian Kurz expect from political newcomers like yourself?
He expects me to vouch for certain issues. I consult with businesses on development and innovation processes. It is important for me to contribute my expertise regarding the initiation of innovation processes in order to think Austria anew. Those are two liberal values like fewer government intervention, lower taxes, more individual responsibility. In my opinion, liberal thinking is the most social thinking.

Could it be that the purpose of political newcomers is to use their popularity during the election campaign?
Popularity is slightly exaggerated in my case. I have been publicly communicating my opinions for many years, this is probably why I was noticed and approached.

In the past, many newcomers did not manage to find their way in political procedures.
I am aware of it, but I am a bit better prepared because I have been active in politics within the framework of the Jewish Community. I hope I won’t be surprised by political routine.

Will you stay active in the Jewish Community?
Sebastian Kurz has left it up to me: we will jointly decide this within the group during the coming weeks.