We talked yesterday about the nail biter of a race in Austria’s presidential elections and how it came down to Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party and the Socialist/Greens’ Alexander Van der Bellen. Some of the locals who felt that the signs were pointing to a thin win for the Freedom Party seem to have been a bit on the optimistic side. With most of the remaining votes counted, Austrian media is reporting that Van der Bellen has squeaked out the narrowest of wins and will be the next President of Austria.
At 4.20pm journalists were reporting van der Bellen had a 16,323 lead over the the Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer, which means the far-right candidate cannot catch up.
The win has yet to be confirmed by the Interior Ministry but is being widely reported in the press, including by the Kurier and the BBC.
Posting on social media, Hofer has also admitted defeat to his Green-backed opponent, thanking people for their support.
The win from van der Bellen means Austria did not become the first country in the EU to have a head of state from the anti-immigrant far-right.
If the local counts hold up, it came down to a 0.6 percent margin, with Van der Bellen receiving 50.3 percent and Hofer receiving 49.7 percent. In other words, the various establishment groups were able to band together enough votes behind the highly unpopular Green Party and essentially split the national vote. That’s not much to cling to by way of a mandate, but the media can put a feather in their cap and claim that the “anti-immigrant” vote had lost. In reality, Austria (like many of their neighbors) remains bitterly divided over the issue of unfettered immigration and open borders.
As an interesting side note, yesterday I talked about some of the similarities being pointed out between Hofer and Trump, but here’s another parallel I missed out on. The winner in this race turned out to be a 72 year of guy running on the Socialist Party ticket as well as the Greens. Now does that sound familiar yet? In any event, the Austrians have their socialist now. We’ll have to wait and see how happy they are with him in a year or so.
Returning for a moment to the “right wing” surge in European politics, as we’ve discussed here repeatedly, Austria is hardly the only country across the pond where this trend is growing. The New York Times has a great roundup of all the nations, parties and players who have been pushing back against socialism and open borders. They include Poland, Hungary, Sweden, Greece, France and Germany. The Times makes every effort to play up historic ties between many of these groups and either Nazis or the Soviet Union, but in the modern era they appear to be focused intently on their own borders and national identity.
The election in Austria may be over, but the longer fight dealing with these issues has obviously only just begun. The next Austrian legislative elections are in 2018.