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Austrian Green candidate wins presidential election

December 6th, 2016

A pro-government commentator believes that despite the defeat of the anti-immigrant candidate, political trends are the same as last week – people in Austria are increasingly wary of immigration and globalisation.

In a re-run of the second round of the presidential election, Austrians elected Green politician Alexander van der Bellen President of the Republic. He was supported by the mainstream parties, right and left, while his opponent, Norbert Hofer was only backed by the nationalist Freedom Party.  In May, their contest ended in a virtual tie, with Mr van der Bellen the victor by just 31 thousand votes. The result was annulled by the Constitutional Court because absentee votes cast by post were counted too soon – even though there was no proof of actual fraud. In the re-run on Sunday, Mr van der Bellen won with over 53 per cent of the ballots.

In Magyar Idők, Zoltán Kottász remarks that the Freedom Party, which opinion surveys suggest is the strongest political force in Austria with 35 per cent backing, was supported by an extra ten per cent, which means that its anti-globalisation stance has an appeal even within the constituencies of other parties. He recalls that in the first round of the presidential election in early May, the candidates of the Socialists and of the People’s Party got just 22,4 per cent of the vote. He doubts their ability to return to government in two years’ time at the next scheduled Parliamentary election. In any case, he continues, the role of the President is largely ceremonial in Austria, which means that in forthcoming years we will barely hear anything about Mr van der Bellen. We will hear a great deal, however, from the opponents of ‘mass immigration, Brussels, the system and globalisation’, Kottász predicts.