FOUR hundred gnomes have disappeared from towns in west Austria, with suspicions their removal may have been politically motivated.
The gnomes - known as ‘coolmen’ - are the property of the left-wing Social Democrat Party, and were being used in the party’s campaign in the lead up to the provincial elections in Vorarlberg on September 21.
Reinhold Einwallner told the BBC that the Social Democrats had attached the 400 gnomes to lamp-posts in the towns of Rankweil and Bregenz, but some time on Saturday night, they had disappeared.
He added: “An interesting detail is that now OeVP (the conservative People’s Party) campaign posters are hanging at the same height on many of these lamp-posts.”
Mr Einwallner insisted it would be a ‘major scandal’ if the gnomes had been stolen by a rival political party.
The Social Democrats, he added, were happy if members of the public wanted to take a ‘coolman’ for their gardens, but that the party could not stand by when campaign materials worth €3000 (£2390) vanished.
The party have also filed an official complaint with the police, with a reward of €1000 offered for anyone with information about the disappearances of the gnomes.
Around 20,000 gnomes have been ordered by the Social Democrats, as they move away from the customary election posters.
The remaining gnomes are due to be displayed during the next few weeks of campaigning.