Fischer Re-elected Austrian President by 78.9%

News Brief: May 2010

Heinz Fischer was re-elected for a second term as Austrian Federal President Sunday, Apr. 25, receiving 78.9% of the vote as expected. He thus achieved his goal of winning the absolute majority in all nine federal states.

In spite of the predictable outcome, there had been intense criticism of the secondary candidates. FPÖ candidate Barbara Rosenkranz became a lightening rod of debate because her belief that freedom of expression also covers “absurd, scurrile and condemnable opinions”, thus referring to national-socialist ideas, while Rudolf Gehring, running as a candidate for the Christian Party CPÖ, a new entry on the political spectrum, was heavily criticized for having taken advantage of a legal loophole to go into early retirement.

Fischer himself was blamed by the Austrian daily Österreich for simply leading a “boring campaign.”

Rosenkranz, who had set a goal of reaching 35% of the votes, received only 15.6%, a resounding defeat delivered by an electorate outraged at statements that bordered on illegal under Austrian law forbidding the denial of the Holocaust.

FPÖ Party chairman H.C. Strache, attempted to explain the failure as “not a defeat,” but rather the result of a “witch hunt by media outlets” against Rosenkranz and her family. Green Party leader Eva Glawischnig saw in the results a clear limit to public tolerance :

“When the FPÖ starts revealing their true face, Austria clearly shows where to set borders.”

The voter turnout represented a historic low, with only 49.2% of the eligible voters going to the polls: 27% explained their apathy to “unattractive and boring candidates” while 25% described the outcome as “predictable.”

The Austrian National Broadcaster ORF saw the outcome as “a success for Fischer but a failure for the position of the president,” triggering a debate on the abolition of re-election and instead prolonging the president’s term of office.

Dr. Heinz Fischer will be inaugurated for a second six-year term on Jul. 8.

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