News - December 8, 2016

Meanwhile in... Austria

‘It would be shameful to have a populist as president’
The people of Austria elected a new president on Sunday 4 December. Alexander Van der Bellen, former party leader of Die Grünen, beat Norbert Hofer of the populist Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs. Much to the relief of Master’s student Francois Laurent.

Text: Francois Laurent
Photos: Sangriana and Shutterstock

‘I voted for Van der Bellen of course. I want to see the whole country shifting a little toward the Green party, but I also dislike Hofer so much. You should realize that as well as  a political figure, the president of Austria is a symbol of our country, our representative towards the world. I think it would be particularly shameful for that position to be occupied by a populist like Hofer. Van der Bellen is a rebel too, as he is known for disregarding the formalities of parliament, sometimes even swearing at other politicians. But at least he is an idealist. That appeals to me.

Looking at the bigger picture of Austrian politics, the most striking feature of these elections was the absence of the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats. I think it is the first time since the second world war that neither one of these parties has produced a candidate for the presidency. For the past 60 years, these parties have been dominant in Austria. These elections show an increase in turbulence and change in politics in general. These two traditional parties were also very strongly represented in the boards of state-owned companies. I consider it a good thing that this will change.

Finally, in my view, this election illustrates the new divide in Austrian society. All of my friends who are young, academic and from Vienna supported Van der Bellen. The supporters of Hofer can be found in the countryside, and among the older and less educated population.’


27-Portretje Ondertussen in FrancoisLaurent.jpg

Francois Laurent, Master’s student of Environmental sciences, illustrates the news in his country.