Far right denied

Written By: Chris McLaughlin
Published: May 27, 2016 Last modified: October 25, 2016

An attempt by the far right to take the presidency of Austria was seen off by the narrowest of margins when the former Green Party leader beat the anti-immigration Freedom Party in a contest which produced the most dramatic rift in post-Second World War history.

Alexander Van der Bellen, a retired economics professor defeated Norbert Hofer by just 31,000 votes out of more than 4.6 million. The result was delayed until 700,000 postal votes were counted.

Although the post of president has been historically ceremonial, apart from the power to dismiss the elected government, the vote mirrored the rise in populist support for anti-immigration, Eurosceptic movements across Europe and was hugely symbolic for Austria. For the first time in 80 years, neither the social democrats nor their right-wing main party opponents secured sufficient votes to be in the running.

Van der Bellen, who was backed by the Greens from which he plans to suspend his membership during office, is the son of two refugees from Nazism. Acknowledging the divisions in Austria, he said: “This rift has existed for some time but perhaps we did not look at it that closely in the past.”

About Chris McLaughlin

Chris McLaughlin is Editor of Tribune