Austria: Outgoing Green President Van der Bellen was re-elected in the first ballot
Outgoing Austrian President, environmentalist Alexander Van der Bellen, was re-elected on Sunday on promises of stability amid the energy crisis. Supported by a broad spectrum of the political class, the 78-year-old candidate won the first ballot without surprise with 56.1 percent of the vote, according to the latest projections by the SORA Institute. The official result should not be known until Monday. “Now is the time to look ahead and get down to the hard work,” Alexander Van der Bellen commented in a video message posted on Facebook.
A weakened right-wing extremist
In the 9-million-inhabitant Alpine country, 6.4 million voters – including the Austro-American Arnold Schwarzenegger, strong support of the President – were called to the polls. “I’m for stability,” Monika Gregor, a 73-year-old pensioner, told AFP, calling the president a “very intelligent” man.
Others, however, preferred to vote for candidates from civil society. Alexander Nittmann, a 35-year-old computer developer, chose Dominik Wlazny, the same age as a punk singer (8.4% of the vote) and founder of the “Beer Party”. “I think a bit of fresh air in politics doesn’t hurt,” he explained, taking his election campaign behind the humor seriously.
The far-right party FPÖ, which almost won against Alexander Van der Bellen in 2016 and dreamed of revenge this year, is far behind this time. Walter Rosenkranz, a little-known 60-year-old to the general public, won 17.9% of the vote on Sunday, bucking the tide in recent elections in Sweden and Italy, according to SORA estimates. Cases of corruption have seen Austria’s notorious far right lose ground. Six years ago she was the first in Europe to come close to winning a presidential election.
Founded by ex-Nazis, the FPÖ ultimately lost more than 46 percent of the votes, epilogue to a ballot box with twists and turns that kept Brussels and Austria’s western partner in suspense. The party then entered the government through a coalition with the conservatives of the young Sebastian Kurz, had to give up power in 2019 after an incredible scandal and has never regained its former glory since then.
A sober and clear campaign, without “turbulence”
In the face of this turbulence and the succession of chancellor, Alexander Van der Bellen, whose function in practice is essentially ceremonial, was able to guarantee the continuity of the state. He could present himself as “the only one who can avoid chaos,” political scientist Thomas Hofer commented in an interview with AFP before the election. Julia Partheymüller from the University of Vienna emphasizes that this pro-European is also considered “integrity”, which is “highly valued” compared to the “multiple crises in many European countries”.
He led a sober campaign, pleading for “clarity” and “competence” in order to “go through the turbulence as calmly as possible”. However, his atypical profile by no means guaranteed him such a political fate. Strict, even a little stiff, agnostic, married twice in the Catholic country, the former leader of the Greens and dean of the economics faculty in Vienna has been able to forget his strong left ties in order to bring people together.
With a wink, a heavy smoker with a three-day beard, he now likes to be photographed in loden – a traditional alpine jacket – at the foot of the glacier to convince of his patriotism. For an extremely rare ecologist at the head of a democracy, he is also the son of refugees and has inherited an exotic Batavian surname: his Protestant family migrated to Russia from the Netherlands in the 18th century. His father, an aristocrat, and his Estonian mother came to Vienna during World War II before moving to Tyrol before the arrival of the Red Army.
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