Saturday

26th Nov 2022

EU 'relief' at far-right defeat in Austria

  • Alexander Van der Bellen will have "to mend fences" in a divided country (Photo: Amélie Chapalain)

[UPDATED on 23 May at 18.35] After 24 hours of suspense, Green candidate Alexander Van der Bellen was officially elected president of Austria on Monday (23 May), with 50.3 percent of votes.

He beat the far-right candidate Norbert Hofer, who was the favourite and whose election would have been a first in the EU.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The final result was announced by the interior minister after all postal votes were counted. Van der Bellen was declared the winner with 31,026 votes more than his opponent, out of 4.6 million votes cast.

On Sunday, votes from polling stations resulted in a 144,006-vote lead for Hofer which was too narrow to declare a winner.

Van der Bellen's election was greeted with relief in the EU.

"There is a sigh of relief in Europe," Italian foreign affairs minister Paolo Gentiloni said in Brussels, where he attended a ministers meeting.

French prime minister Manuel Valls, during a visit to Israel also expressed his "relief to see Austrians reject extremism and populism".

"Every one must draw the lessons," he added.

"It is important that a president who represents a pro-European attitude is elected," said EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn, who is Austrian.

"No country can cope alone with the enormous cross-border challenges we face today," he said in a statement.

EU finance commissioner Pierre Moscovici said that the vote showed that "populism looms, the majority of citizens reject it, pro-Europeans must go on the offensive".

Manfred Weber, the leader of the center-right EPP group in the European Parliament, said on Twitter that the result was "a good outcome for Austria and for Europe" and that he was "pleased" that Austria chose "constructive cooperation in Europe".

Van der Bellen, a 72-year old economy academic and former chairman of the Green party, was the election's underdog.

He created a first surprise on 24 April when he came out second of the first round of the presidential election, ahead of the candidates from the two main parties, the Social-Democratic Party and the Christian-Democratic Party.



With 21.3 percent, he was however far behind Hofer, the candidate of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPO), who got 35.1 percent.

But he rallied behind him urban, educated and female voters to block Hofer from the president's office, according to different exit polls.

'We are equal'

In an speech after the official results were given, Van der Bellen, who will take office on 1 July, said his election brought a "big responsibility" upon him.

He said Austria should "learn the lessons of recent months" implicitly referring to the debates on immigration and the weakening of the current coalition between social-democrats and christian-democrats.

Austria "needs another culture of dialogue, politicians that are not so concerned with themselves but with the real concerns and the anger of many people in this country," he said.

He dismissed talks of "dividing lines, left and right, city and countryside, upper and lower, old and young".

"We are equal. There are two halves that makes Austria, both are equally important," he said.

Speaking earlier, the outgoing president Hans Fischer said Van der Bellen would have to be the head of state for all Austrians and that he would have to "mend fences" in a country divided in two after the vote.

In a statement posted on Facebook, the defeated Hofer said he was "obviously sad".

He asked his supporters not to be "disheartened" and said their commitment in the election campaign was "not lost but an investment for the future".

Analysis

Austria prepares for historic swerve to the right

A victory of the far-right candidate Norbert Hofer at Sunday's presidential election would open the way to a tandem with a far-richt chancellor in a near future, with unforessen consequences for the country's democracy.

Analysis

Tough challenges ahead for Austria's president

Alexander Van der Bellen, who won by just 31,000 ballots, will not have an easy task reconciling a divided country wih a far-righ that remains on the rise.

Austrian candidates both seek Trump effect

Donald Trump's victory is enlivening Austria's presidential campaign - one side seizing on it as a sign that the masses are rising up, the other depicting it as a stark warning of the dangers of demagoguery.

Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Ukraine and a looming economic recession is set to dominate the upcoming Swedish EU presidency, which takes over at the start of next year. Sweden's ambassador to the EU, Lars Danielsson, laid out some of its priorities.

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges
  2. The 'proof' problem with EU sanctions — and how to fix it
  3. The EU gas cap: will the bottle ever be 'uncorked'?
  4. Enough talk, only rights can eliminate patriarchal violence
  5. Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'
  6. EU Commission to keep Hungary's EU funds in limbo
  7. 'No substance' price ceiling for gas leaves everyone disgruntled
  8. Paying consumers who save most energy could tame gas prices

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us