Thousands of Austrians have paid their respects Jörg Haider, a far-right populist leader who died in a high-speed car crash a week ago.

Around 25,000 mourners attended Mr Haider's memorial service in Klagenfurt, the capital of the Alpine province where he was governor for over a decade.

RTÉ.ie Extra: Watch the memorial service

He was seen by many in the province as a leader with a common touch who took on the political establishment in Vienna.

One of Austria's rare internationally recognised public figures, Mr Haider led the right into a coalition government from 2000-2006 and helped thrust anti-immigrant politics into the European mainstream with his blunt and polarising rhetoric.

'He was a man who could leave no one cold, whether in a positive or a negative sense,' Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer said at Mr Haider's open-air memorial service.

Mr Haider's notoriety peaked in the 1990s when he scolded Austria's government by citing the 'proper labour policies' of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. He had also referred to Nazi concentration camps as penal camps in a parliamentary debate.

Mr Haider's modern populism, which also targeted what he saw as the loss of national sovereignty to EU integration, helped break the grip on government of centrist parties he said were out of touch with grassroots concerns.

'Although he was controversial and contested, he spoke for European democracy. Haider was not only local, Austrian, but had a European message,' said Albert Gardin, who had travelled from Venice to pay his respects.

Mr Haider burst back onto the scene this year at the head of right wing splinter group Alliance for Austria's Future.

The far right, comprising rivals Alliance and Mr Haider's former party Freedom, won a combined one third of votes in a parliamentary election last month.

Mourners, many dressed in traditional green and brown, added wreaths to the dozens put outside government headquarters since his fatal car accident in the early hours of last Saturday.

Around 12,000 people queued silently for hours yesterday to pay tribute at his closed coffin, placing official photographs of the tanned and casually clothed Mr Haider among red candles.

'He wasn't just a politician, he was a friend to everyone,' said 27-year-old Yvonne Graessl.

Mr Haider's pale wood coffin, decked in rich red flowers and ribbon, was carried in front of the government headquarters by six men in black robes to solemn brass band music.

Around 4,000 people took part in a memorial service for Mr Haider at Vienna's 12th-century Stephansdom cathedral on Wednesday.

Outside the cathedral, pro- and anti-Haider Austrians got into verbal altercations, true to his polarizing legacy.

Haider drank before crash

Yesterday it emerged that Mr Haider had consumed alcohol before the fatal crash.

The 58-year-old died in the early hours of last Saturday when the car he was driving at 142 km/h, around twice the speed limit, crashed off a road in the southern province of Carinthia.

'It is correct that...Jörg Haider was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. I can, and must, confirm that,' said Stefan Petzner, the new leader of Mr Haider's Alliance for Austria's Future party.

He confirmed media reports that the amount of alcohol in Haider's blood was nearly four times the legal limit.

However, Mr Petzner said later that Mr Haider did not appear drunk when he last saw him, leaving a night club outside Klagenfurt a little over an hour before the accident.

'Otherwise I would have done all I could to prevent him from driving,' Mr Petzner said on ORF state television on Wednesday night, adding he could not explain the autopsy's finding of heavy intoxication.

Earlier, Mr Petzner told wire services that the famously convivial Mr Haider always liked a good party.

Mr Haider's charismatic populism was instrumental in moving anti-immigrant politics from Europe's fringes towards the mainstream and breaking the grip on government of established centrist parties which he said had lost touch with the people.

He was driving to his rural home near Klagenfurt for a family reunion when the accident occurred.

The government car he was driving skidded out of control after he overtook another vehicle and hit a concrete traffic barrier, flipping over several times. He was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital soon afterwards.

The three-month-old luxury car was in full working order, according to a technical analysis.