The historic 2016 Presidential election of Austria finally concluded yesterday, with the Green Party's Alexander van der Bellen the eventual winner in the second round over the Freedom Party's Norbert Hofer, and eventually by a margin of only 0.6%.
With this result, Alexander becomes the first ever Green President of Austria, and only the second President of Austria not endorsed by the social-democratic Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPO) or the conservative Austrian People's Party (OVP) elected since 1945.
As a Green, I am particularly pleased with Alexander's win and it shows that green politics and values can win elections nationally as well as locally or regionally. As a political analyst, this election represents the start of a sea of political change in Austria, a nation whose vote on most elections since the end of World War II has resulted in the SPO or OVP, or both, forming the government of Austria, with the notorious exceptions of 1999 and 2002 when an OVP-FPO government took office, resulting in sanctions from the European Union being applied temporarily to Austria during the first term of the OVP-FPO coalition. The SPO and OVP currently hold just 99 seats out of 183 between them, and the next legislative elections in Austria will, on current opinion polling, likely result in less than half of the seats in the National Council being shared by the SPO and OVP for the very first time. In this election, the SPO's Presidential candidate, Rudolf Hunsdorter, and the OVP's Presidential candidate, Andreas Khol, finished fourth and fifth respectively, and between them they polled just 22.4% of the votes cast, not much more than former Supreme Court Justice Irmgard Griss, who by achieving 18.9% was the best performer out of candidates who did not qualify for the second round. Neither Rudolf nor Andreas even came close to qualifying for the nail-biting second round; meanwhile, it was independent candidate Richard Lugner who came last.
Certainly, elections like this one show that it is hope, not fear, that will allow us all to find a new (and hopefully green) way and break the tired old bonds of neoliberalism.