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Hofer humbled, FPÖ flops in Austria

Source: HOPE not hate | Sunday, 4 December 2016


Martin Jordan in Vienna and Graeme Atkinson report

Alexander Van der Bellen, a retired economics professor and former leader of the Green Party, won the Austrian presidential election against the far right FPÖ candidate Norbert Hofer today.

The first calculations of the vote count, including a projection of the postal votes that only will be counted on Monday, show 53.3% for Van der Bellen (with a range of variation of 0.5%), a vote that confounds all the dire, not to say hysterical, prattle, projections and predictions of the international media.

It is a clear defeat for the FPÖ and the international far right.

It is now the second time this year that Van der Bellen has won the presidential election. In an unprecedented and much criticised decision, the Constitutional Court overturned May’s election outcome, a ruling that came after the then narrowly defeated FPÖ disputed the election on suspicion of election fraud and manipulation of the postal votes.

Although Austria’s highest court couldn’t find any indication of such antics, it argued that manipulation could have been possible due to formal irregularities with handling of the postal votes.

Norbert Hofer has already congratulated Van der Bellen on his historic victory that probably marks the beginning of a major change in Austria’s political system. Not because the president has a lot of powers, but because this election reflects beautifully the crisis of the old-school establishment parties left (SPÖ) and right (ÖVP) from the political centre.

For the first time since the end of WWII, these parties were kicked out in the first round leaving candidates considered too extreme for the middle class before. People are fed up and have shown it with their vote.

The current SPÖ-ÖVP government is stuck in a coalition as well being mired in party-infighting and it is very likely that there will be early national elections in the spring of 2017.

Unfortunately, the outcome of today’s election will probably have only slight impact on the FPÖ’s real chances of becoming the strongest political force in the next national elections.

The FPÖ has fought a fierce one-year long disinformation campaign with false allegations, rumours and poisonous lies spread via social media, trying to whip up the frustration and fears of people into an angry frenzy.This will not go away overnight. The FPÖ smells blood and will continue on the tawdry path that brought it this far.

What gives hope is the massive grassroots mobilisation across social and political borders that successfully drove forward the campaign of Alexander Van der Bellen. If these networks stay active and connected, there is the possibility of a reformist movement on the left.

Up to now this mobilisation has been based on “stopping the far right” and the created momentum may easily dissolve if this cannot be transformed into a common denominator in the national elections. “Preventing the FPÖ” is not an argument that can win national elections.

For the next six years Austria will have a sober-minded, left-wing liberal President whose first challenge will be to bridge the great divides that opened up during this election campaign.

For the moment, though, Hofer, the man billed by the over-excited mass media as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” has been exposed as a sheep in sheep’s clothing.


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