Ecology wins again in Austria. Alexander Van der Bellen is the new president

For the second time in few months the head of the Greens Alexander Van der Bellen defeats far-right candidate Norbert Hofer.

The leader of the Greens Alexander Van der Bellen is Austria’s new president elected. The environmentalist defeated the candidate of the far-right party FPOE (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs) Norbert Hofer for the second time becoming the elected chief of the European country.
In the first presidential runoff between Van der Bellen and Hofer which was held on 22 May 2016 the leader of the Greens won. But the margin was just 31,000 votes. So Hofer filed a successful complaint to the Constitutional Court. Turnout was higher than in May: from 72.6 to 74.1 percent.

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Environmental activist’ celebrations for the news of Alexander Van der Bellen’s victory © ROLAND SCHLAGER/AFP/Getty Images

The FPOE admits its defeat

A few months later, the margin has clearly widened: Van der Bellen won with 53.6 percent of votes, even though the results are not yet definitive. But the advantage is enough to exclude a second round of voting. As a matter of fact, the FPOE admitted its defeat: “I congratulate Alexander Van der Bellen on his success”, FPOE Secretary General Herbert Kickl told the public television. Hofer said on Facebook that he was “incredibly sad”.

During his electoral campaign, Van der Bellen, 72, economist, former economics professor, asked Austrian voters to reject far-right proposals. Those who followed him in the months leading to the runoff know that Austria’s new president cares more about the contents of his proposals than about appearance. He has never tried to hide what he wanted to do with his austere behavior. And while Hofer felt comfortable with communication strategies, in Van der Bellen’s debates and political meetings there have often been long periods of silence.

“A vote for a pro-European Austria”

He rejected the idea of closing borders to migrants proposing an open, multicultural society, also claiming that he’s son of refugees. His father was a Russian aristocrat, his mother was Estonian and they both escaped the 1917 revolution.

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Norbert Gerwald Hofer, leader of the far-right party FPOE, was defeated twice by ecologist Van der Bellen © Omar Marques/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Another talked about issue by the Greens candidate was the role of Vienna in Europe: Hofer’s victory, he explained, would have led to isolation. “I’ve always stood up for – Van der Bellen told the public television – a pro-European Austria based on freedom, equality and solidarity”. The candidates fiercely argued about this issue. The newly-elected president once told Hofer: “I’m talking about Europe. E-u-r-o-p-e: never heard of it?”.

Van der Bellen’s entourage: “We’re all relieved and grateful”

When the crowd gathered in Vienna’s Hofburg’s Palace came to know that the ecologist candidate’s advantage was so considerable, the place filled with joy. “We’re all relieved and grateful”, Director of Van der Bellen’s campaign Lothar Lockl said.

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Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen during a meeting © HELMUT FOHRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

He was the leader of the Green Party until 2008, but he knew how to obtain votes from members of other parties who decided not to officially support him, like SPOE members. Van der Bellen was also voted by most of the country’s artists and intellectuals.

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