Europe was fearful. Would the triumph of the right-wing extremist continue? Anti-establishment is on the rise all over the world and it seems voters are in an unpredictable mood these days.
After Brexit and the USA, would the small country of Austria follow the trend? Both of the regular parties had been voted out last year, Austrians were tired of the “same old, same old,” as well and they voted for the rightwing candidate Norbert Hofer (Freedom Party) and for Alexander Van Bellen (Green party) instead.
The original election was held a year ago, but the result was too close -there were rumors of voting fraud and even though Van Bellen won, another election was ordered.
Who would win in the end? The election process went on for a year, that’s something unheard of in Europe. Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, the candidates went out and asked for people’s vote.
Mr. Van der Bellen asked Austrians to vote for reason over extremes; Mr. Hofer campaigned on an “Austria First!” slogan, said he wanted to lead a country that was secure “for our children and grandchildren,” playing on fears of the tide of migrants and refugees that have entered Europe. (Sounds familiar?)
Austria is and always will be in my blood, that’s where my roots are. I am a European-American -aren’t we all- and today I watched the election in Austria and Italy closely.
I am relieved, Austria rejected the far right candidate for President, and I hope that’s a good signal for many other elections in Europe. Yes, European Union, you can breath -at least for now.
Mr.Van der Bellen called the result a vote for a “pro-European” Austria based on freedom, equality, and solidarity”. I call it a victory for humanity and civility.
Austria, it was tight, but you got it right. I am glad! Congratulations!