Austria: Will Van der Bellen’s victory affects green, less traditional left parties?

There were many discussions that if populist right candidate Norbert Hofer will win presidential election in Austria what kind of impact it may have on far-right in Europe. But the winner is Alexander Van der Bellen who was supported by Greens. Do you think that his victory may somehow affect Green parties in Europe, respectively less traditional left parties or not, and why? Read few comments.

Thomas Poguntke, Professor, Chair of Comparative Politics & Vice-Director of the Düsseldorf Party Research Institute (PRuF), Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf

I do not anticipate positive effects on other European Green or non-traditional left-wing parties in Europe, because the victory of van der Bellen is mainly based on an ‘anti-coalition’ of those who wanted to prevent The victory of the right-wing populist candidate Hofer. It is not really an expression of the strength of the Greens or other left-wing parties.

Kurt Richard Luther, Professor of Comparative Politics, Keele University

1. The parties behind both candidates received the largest national vote they have ever had. That will probably legitimate both of the domestically.

2. Combined, their highest previous national votes were under 50%, so by definition, more than have the voters will probably have voted for one of them for the first time. That will also probably have a longer term effect, namely consolidating the trend to greater volatility.

3. To come to your question regarding the external impact of the election, I would first say there is little doubt (see for example the interview with the AfD leader), that Hofer’s success is having the effect of encouraging like-minded parties elsewhere.

4. Similarly, Greens elsewhere (e,g, the Minister President of Baden-Württenberg) are seeing Van der Bellen’s election as an encouragement for their cause The substantive impact is likely to not be that major, however, but it does help consolidate the long-standing move of the Greens (and in particular of the moderate type of green politics embodied in the Austrian Green Party) from the periphery to the mainstream.

Paul Schmidt, Secretary General, Austrian Society for European Politics

I believe that the tentative effect will not be very strong and, thus, can not be compared. Europe – maybe some european countries more than others – does already have experience with green parties winning elections or becoming part of coalition governments. There is already a green president in Latvia. And take Germany for example where the Green party has been in a government coalition and is sometimes in the lead on the level of the Länder. My third point would be something you have stated in your text. Van der Bellen has defined himself as an independent candidate, but supported by the Greens. Fourth and last point: usually European green parties do not necessarily equal the extreme left like e.g. Podemos.

Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development, University of Surrey

My reaction, broadly is delight that Mr Van der Bellen has won the presidential election. The Greens have always offered a less conventional, more inclusive politics with a strong focus on social and environmental justice. It’s really important to have this vision in Europe at the moment, with so many other nationalistic and divisive forces at work. It’s clear that a far right victory in Austria would have hammered even more nails into the coffin of social democracy and (in my mind) eroded European politics even further. Mr Van der Bellen’s election allows those of us who care for decency, democracy, social justice and a secure future to breathe a collective sigh of relief. But not a very big sigh of relief. This victory by no means signals a huge wave of green political support or indeed the end of the threat of divisive nationalistic politics. It’s a moment to take stock of a threat averted. And to create policies that will re-orient the politics of the middle ground and build support for those who have been marginalised by economic inequality. It’s also a moment to begin to negotiate more viable multilateral solutions to the demographic challenges that Europe is facing.

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