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Who is Alexander Van der Bellen, Austria’s new President

Meet Alexander Van der Bellen, the newly-elected President of Austria. 72, father of two, and twice married, he dedicated his life to teaching and has been serving as leader of the Green Party for eleven years.

Alexander Van der Bellen took his revenge in a sense on the 22nd of May. Indeed, Van der Bellen ran for the vice-presidential elections of the National Assembly, the Austrian Parliament, in 2008. His aim was curbing the growth of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO), the right-wing, anti-European and anti-migrant Party.

However, nationalist Martin Graf defeated him. Eight years have passed and now, after a heated head-to-head, the 72-year-old ecologist has finally beaten his rival of the FPO, Norbert Hofer, narrowly gaining 50.3% of votes.

 

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Alexander Van der Bellen, Austria’s new president, at the ballot boxes © Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images

A retired professor of economics

Van der Bellen was a professor of economics and dean of economics at the University of Vienna, and he’s now retired. His political vision, of Austria and of the entire world as well, is the exact opposite of his far-right rival’s. To closing borders, Van der Bellen opposed his idea of multicultural, open society, revealing he himself was a “child of refugees”. His father was a Russian aristocrat and, together with his mother, arrived to Austria to flee the 1917 revolution.

 

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Van der Bellen in Vienna, Austria © Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images

 

The newly-elected president grew up in the federal state of Tyrol, where he also raised his kids before beginning his political career, with social democrats first and with the Greens later. As a convinced Europeanist, he embraced some of the main fights of the European environmental movement. For instance, he promised not to sign the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Van der Bellen recently got married with an MP for the Green Party

Stern and elegant, he’s considered by his rivals of the FPO as a left-wing bourgeois. Just a few weeks before being in the running for the presidency, he married – after a divorce – his partner Doris Schmidauer, an MP for the Green Party. During his campaign, Van der Bellen tried to be as moderate as possible, aiming at gathering consensus from the two historical parties of the country.

 

Featured image: ©Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images
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