Austria’s president seeks reelection after hectic term

Austria’s president seeks reelection after hectic term

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen announced Sunday that he will stand for re-election later this year, after a term marked by multiple political turmoil.

The 78-year-old liberal politician who once led the Greens party tweeted that Austria and Europe are facing turbulent times due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, its impact on the economy and the challenges of the climate change.

“I would like to continue putting my experience at the service of our country,” he said, promising to fully concentrate on his duties until a “short, fair, transparent and above all frugal” campaign this fall.

It is not clear who he will face in the elections, the date of which has not yet been set. The Austrian president has a six-year term.

Van der Bellen defeated the far-right Freedom Party candidate, Norbert Hofer, in a vote held in December 2016. This was a rerun ordered by the Austrian Constitutional Court after Hofer’s party denounced widespread irregularities in the second round vote, which Van der Bellen won by a narrow margin.

The Austrian president is, in principle, a largely ceremonial figure, but he plays a prominent role in times of internal political crisis. That has given Van der Bellen great visibility.

After conservative chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s coalition with the Freedom Party collapsed in a scandal in 2019, the president appointed an interim cabinet of nonpartisan experts under Brigitte Bierlein, then head of the Constitutional Court.

Melissa Galbraith
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