Sunday’s repetition of the runoff between right-wing populist candidate Norbert Hofer and left-wing Green Party candidate Alexander Van der Bellen produced a clear enough result. Van der Bellen won the election with 53% of the vote. His campaign and election received unusual attention in the Estonian media because his mother was Estonian.
Hofer’s Freedom Party (FPÖ) announced that they wouldn’t contest the result of this last round of the elections for the Austrian presidency. Hofer thanked his supporters, and announced that he would run for the same office again in 2022.
The last few days leading up to Sunday’s vote had been marked by and increasingly aggressive campaign of the Freedom Party, who attacked Van der Bellen with a variety of whimsical accusations, including that he had been a communist and a spy, and that his father, who died decades ago, had been a Nazi sympathiser.
Hofer’s main advantage with conservative voters, according to various polls conducted by the Austrian media, had been that he was a young, smart, and very polite man. The aggressive final sprint of Hofer’s campaign, which saw him publicly attack Van der Bellen and call him a liar on several occasions, might have worked towards his eventual defeat, Austrian media speculated.
Austria's new president is half Estonian
Alexander Van der Bellen was born in Vienna on Jan. 18, 1944 to a Russian-born father of Dutch descent and an Estonian mother, Alma. They fled Russia after the revolution, emigrating to Estonia in 1919.
Following the Soviet invasion of Estonia in 1940, Van der Bellen’s parents fled to East Prussia, then Germany, and Vienna, where their son was born. From there, they again fled from the advancing Red Army and eventually settled in Tyrol, where Alexander Van der Bellen spent an idyllic childhood, as he has said himself.
He studied economics at the University of Innsbruck and finished his PhD in 1970. He became dean of economics at the University of Vienna two decades later.
Adversaries have accused Van der Bellen of being a turncoat, as he used to be a member of the Social Democrats before joining the Greens in the early 1990s and eventually becoming the party’s leader. He managed to turn what was seen by many as a group of radicals into a political party.
As President of Austria, Van der Bellen dreams of a fence-free “United States of Europe” that defends the rights of minority groups.
In his private life, he admits having two weaknesses: Donald Duck comics, and cigarettes.
Editor: Editor: Dario Cavegn