Austrian presidential election: close victory of the Green candidate over the populist one

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Austria – The Green candidate Alexander Van der Bellen won the presidential election after a very tight second round. After 24 hours of suspense, the Green candidate has won against the candidate of the populist Freedom Party (FPÖ), Norbert Hofer.

The tension was at its peak from Sunday evening until Monday afternoon. After arriving at the head of the 1st round, the candidate of the populist Freedom Party, Norbert Hofer, was expected to win Sunday night according to initial estimates. The final, laborious and unusually long countdown has finally brought victory to the Green candidate Van der Bellen, with 50.3% of votes cast. The difference being 31,026 votes (out of 4,643,154 cast), some of Hofer supporters got suspicions about the countdown, or on the mobilization of absentees and “retirement homes” at the last moment.

But it is a historic score for the FPÖ and a strong symbol. “I’d say we’ve won anyway,” Hofer said before the final results were known. The link between the migrants crisis and the rise of the FPÖ – which was supported by Orbán – is noteworthy. Austria is currently strengthening its border with Italy, where the influx of immigrants increases and the border with Hungary is under scrutiny. Following the defeat of his party at the first round of the presidential election, the Social Democratic Chancellor Faymann resigned on May 9. He advocated an unconditional welcoming policy toward migrants, also attacking Orbán which he compared the policy to that of “the darkest hours of the continent.”

Austrian President has a limited role which is similar to the role of the German and the Hungarian presidents. However, he has alongside with members of the government (Bundesminister), secretaries of state, and regional representatives, a role in the executive branch. This is the first time that the president is not member of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) or of the  Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP).