Friday

22nd Nov 2019

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join 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.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament votes on new commission next week
  2. Berlusconi wants Europe to be a military global power
  3. Orban ordered to apologise over 'misleading' Soros survey
  4. EPP to decide on expelling Fidesz by end of January
  5. Rowdy anti-corruption protest in Malta
  6. Ambassador: Trump ordered Ukraine election meddling
  7. EU links Libyan government to human trafficking
  8. Greek PM on migration: 'Greece has reached its limits'

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. EPP congress pledges 'moderate' climate solution
  2. EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans
  3. New EU financial instruments needed
  4. Binding measures to expand gender balance
  5. Watershed moment for rule of law in Hong Kong
  6. EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration
  7. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  8. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us