Dilemma of the Austrian Presidential Election

PeopleOther ♦ Published: June 29, 2022; 21:26 ♦ (Vindobona)

October 9 will be the date for the election of the Federal President. Although the election is relatively close, no real campaign has yet begun. Most parties have not even nominated candidates. The incumbent president Alexander Van der Bellen announced to run again.

The acting president Alexander Van der Bellen announced to run again. / Picture: © www.bundespraesident.at / Carina Karlovits and Peter Lechner / HBF

The date for the election was decided today by the Council of Ministers. The deadline is therefore August 9, after which the necessary 6.000 signatures of support can be collected.

However, many candidates still need to collect 6.000 signatures first. The incumbent president Alexander Van der Bellen is also still calling for 6.000 citizens who must submit declarations of support.

Dilemma in Terms of Democracy

Of the major and better-known politicians, Alexander Van der Bellen is the only one who has so far expressed his intention to run for the office of Federal President.

Only the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) has expressed its intention to nominate someone as a candidate. Norbert Hofer (FPÖ), who surprisingly entered the race in the election six years ago and narrowly missed the Hofburg, had already declared in advance that he would not run this fall. Susanne Fürst, a politician of the FPÖ is now in the discussion for running for the office of President. Susanne Fürst is an Austrian lawyer and a member of the National Parliament for the FPÖ. However, the FPÖ is still in disagreement about their candidate, and no one has actually been fixed yet.

Since no other of the larger parties, especially no parties in parliament, have declared their intention to send a candidate into the race, the apparent lack of competition for Van der Bellen caused a discussion on democratic politics.

When no strong contenders other than the incumbent are running for the highest office in the state, it not only devalues the office itself but does not promote healthy political competition. Both of these things are negative for a democracy.

Apart from that, the question is whether there can be a serious and legitimate debate about Van der Bellen's performance in office without an election campaign with strong competitors.

Van der Bellen himself responded in an interview with the newspaper DiePresse, to the question of whether it was questionable in terms of democratic policy if only one parliamentary party has an opposing candidate, he said: "I think the election for Federal President is about who best represents our country, who is trusted to do that and who has already proven that - I think that's me, in all modesty. In the National Council election, it's a different matter, every party runs there, of course."

However, many voices would like to see a more competitive democratic approach from the Austrian political parties towards the presidential election. Apart from the fact that the office of the Federal President is the highest in the state, such an office, in particular, deserves greater political competition.