Ruminations on the Austrian Presidential Election – Part Two – After

December 6, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

Matthias Schrader/AP

 

By

Sylvia Petter

I was scared, very scared. And, I wasn’t the only one. People had started walking beneath my window already at 9 am on the morning of Sunday, 4 December. The school next door was a polling station for the Austrian Presidential Election Mach 2. It was freezing cold, many of the trees had lost their leaves and the sky was a bright blue. It had been a long election period with false starts and hiccups along the way, but people still came. In fact, more voted this time than in the contested May round. 64.6% with the postal votes probably taking it up to 74%. Something was at stake.

Results, constitutionally, were not to be announced before 17:00. It was going to be close. Results might not be able to be known until Monday, Krampus, the devil’s day. How ominous! But then things went fast and shortly after 5pm ORF national television announced that Alexander Van der Bellen had beaten Norbert Hofer and would therefore be the next President of Austria.

In fact, he had already won in May, but the FPÖ had pointed to irregularities, and demanded a rerun. This time round Van der Bellen made gains all over the country, turning the capital cities of all nine Federal States “green”. Although running as an independent Van der Bellen, as former leader of the Greens was strongly supported by the Greens Party, and so established a link with that party in voters’ minds. But he was also supported by the ÖVP (black), SPÖ (red) and NEOs (pink), with the vestiges of the hot air Stronach Team and the FPÖ supporting the “blue” candidate, Norbert Hofer. Of course, alliances were secretly pronounced at the ballot box, but some also publicly with the leader of the ÖVP parliamentary club, Reinhold Lopatka, openly supporting Norbert Hofer. (Could it be that a beauty contest between Hofer and Strache is in the offing before the parliamentary elections next year and that Lopatka is playing his own little game of thrones with Sebastian Kurz up his sleeve? Just in case Chancellor Kern of the SPÖ flirts too much with FPÖ leader Strache).

 

Norbert Hofer – Photo Hans Klaus Techt/APA

 

 

There are so many computations behind the scenes and President Elect Alexander Van der Bellen quickly will need to fit into the shoes of Heinz Fischer who had represented the country for 12 years. But Van der Bellen has several things now going for him: he has shown himself to be flexible while maintaining his beliefs and has not sold out to any political party; he is pro-Europe and in favour of heterogeneity rather than homogeneity; and he will have recourse to using all the possibilities of the position of President of Austria and perhaps even taking it to a new level for all of the country.

Interestingly, the urban areas, which are ones more commonly exposed to the refugee situation are ones that confirmed and even increased their support of Van der Bellen. Also, of interest is the high proportion of women and young people voting for the “independent” candidate. Had only male votes been counted, Norbert Hofer would have won. It is expected that the final number will be 53.3% for Van der Bellen to 46.7% for Norbert Hofer.

46.7% though is more than Donald Trump achieved, so it represents a warning that if the current government does not get its act together it will be “fired”. This may be the only area where Austrians might copy the US example, the histrionics of a Trump and a Farage seeming to having put them off rather than to having had any effect on a small landlocked country in Europe with more to lose than to gain from an Öxit.

With Alexander Van der Bellen now wanting to reach out to the 46.7%, we may see more fine pieces of Tracht worn openly by the 53.3% group. Austrians though can live well with euphoria laced with apprehension, recalling for me another Austrian son, Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch. Now to find my old non-dating Dirndl and make any necessary alterations. The next Springtime will soon be on its way.

 

 

Read ‘Ruminations on the Austrian Presidential Election – Part One – Before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sylvia-petter

Sylvia Petter

Sylvia Petter is an Australian writer now based in Vienna. Following a telecommunications policy career with a UN agency in Geneva, she moved to Austria where she now works in the Education Department at the University of Vienna. Sylvia writes fiction, with stories published in English and German and some translated into French. She is working on a novel, and has a website at https://www.sylviapetter.com.

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