Alexander van der Bellen, current president of the Austrian Republic and former head of the Austrian Green Party, has been re-elected for another term. During the first ballot on Sunday, October 10th, the 78-year-old garnered more than 56% of the votes, gaining him an absolute majority and making a final ballot unnecessary. His strongest competitor, Walter Rosenkranz of the right-wing FPÖ, received only 18% of the votes, the other five candidates amassed between 1.5% and 8%.
In a video statement released on Twitter after the election, van der Bellen thanked his voters and referred to the election day as “the highest feast day of democracy.” He called upon all Austrians to look forward together to tackle important challenges without delay. “Whether you’ve voted for me personally, or for another candidate, I will work to the utmost of my capabilities for all Austrians and those who live in Austria.” Van der Bellen admitted feeling “relieved” about the result, as the “constant talk” about him being reelected anyway might have led to many people not even casting a vote.
The reelected former chairman of the Greens, who ran as an independent candidate, received congratulations from other presidents across Europe, including Sergio Mattarella from Italy and Frank-Walter Steinmeier from Germany. The German president said that van der Bellen’s re-election was “an important sign to all Austrians, but also to us Germans as European neighbors and friends.” Also, the leader of the Belarusian opposition, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, thanked van der Bellen for defending the people of Belarus who are “at the frontlines of tyranny.”
Whereas the candidate of the FPÖ in 2016, Norbert Hofer, took van der Bellen to a final ballot, Walter Rosenkranz failed to challenge the status quo. But Rosenkranz wasn’t too disappointed. “I am actually happy that we managed to get a result many pollsters would not have predicted,” said the FPÖ candidate. The vice chairwoman of the FPÖ, Dagmar Belakowitsch, concluded that the election for president, who has a mostly representative function in Austria, has been a “personality election.” With several candidates focusing on a similar right-wing niche, votes were too thinly spread, according to Belakowitsch.
Ever since the introduction of presidential elections in Austria after 1920, all acting presidents who have stood for reelection have been elected for a second term. While van der Bellen promised in 2016 to fulfill the role of the president “quietly,” as is common, the contrary has been true since then. Most notably, he obliged Sebastian Kurz’s wish to release the then-Minister of Interior Herbert Kickl of the FPÖ from his duties—in the wake of the Ibiza affair of the former FPÖ chairman Heinz Christian Strache, even though Kickl was in no way involved in that affair. Two years later, when the corruption charges against Sebastian Kurz and many of his confidantes caused him to resign from office, however, van der Bellen did not follow up on the wishes of many voters to recall the governing coalition and force a federal reelection, thus allowing his former party colleagues of the Greens to remain part of the government.