Stronach’s Death-Penalty Backing Upends Austrian Vote Support

Frank Stronach, the 80-year-old Austrian billionaire campaigning in this month’s federal election, upset supporters by saying he backs the death penalty.

“For professional hit men there should be a death penalty because they are a threat to society,” Stronach said, according to a transcript of a question-and-answer session published today by the Vorarlberger Nachrichten newspaper. The remarks prompted Stronach’s own party to distance itself from the candidate.

“We personally think that it is seriously dangerous to even think about instituting the death penalty in our country because of legal, moral and ethical reasons,” said a statement issued today by Team Stronach, the Carinthian chapter of the political party set up last year to elevate the founder of Magna International Inc. (MG) to power.

Voters go to the polls on Sept. 29 to decide whether to give the ruling Social Democratic and Austrian People’s Party a new mandate to govern the country of 8.4 million. The Socialists lead the polls with 27 percent while the People’s party is second at 24 percent. Team Stronach, with 7 percent, joins the Pirate Party and the Austrian Neos as newcomers on the ballot.

Capital punishment has been outlawed in Austria since 1950. The country has adopted United Nations and European Union conventions outlawing the death penalty. Authorities in the southern city of Graz stripped Arnold Schwarzenegger’s name from its soccer stadium in 2005 because the ex-California governor, who grew up in Austria, refused to pardon a death-row inmate.

Stronach’s campaign issued a statement that the candidate was expressing his personal opinions about the death penalty and that they aren’t part of his party’s platform.

Stronach is worth about 2.35 billion euros ($3.1 billion) according to Trend magazine.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at jtirone@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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