Monday, 8th October 2018.
Yesterday the fifth re-run of the 2016 presidential election took place with little excitement. Both candidates, Norbert Hofer (FPÖ) and Alexander van der Bellen (The Green Party – as well known, he returned to the Greens after the third re-run of the election), as usual, cast their votes in their home constituency. After an extremely short election campaign of only four days (due to the financial situation) – the least costly in the history of election re-runs in Austria – both candidates appeared in a 5-minute special broadcast on ORF 3 at 11.45 pm to thank their election helpers and their voters who have remained loyal over the years. This was the first meeting of the two candidates in front of a running camera since the last election re-run: despite “intensive efforts”, no TV station could find a slot for an election duel. Neither of the candidates wanted to provide any feedback on the result as there was still too much uncertainty although the polling cards (as decided after several electoral reforms) have already been counted. The joint promise that on this occasion only gross violations will be examined by the newly created department for electoral disputes in the Constitutional Court should be kept. However doubts have arisen as to whether this truce can be maintained: according to the long-standing electoral manager of the FPÖ, Herbert Kickl, independent members of the Freedom Party from several constituencies have reported that the polling cards which have already been sent vary up to three millimetres in length and width. As a result, the counting of the votes is disputed.
This time the lack of media interest was once again evident: apart from ORF, only two journalists from Austrian daily newspapers were present along with Richard Lugner, who has repeatedly offered to accept a lower salary for the presidential post since the first election round and who, in a concerted streaking campaign of his current partner, has declared:
I’ll do it for a quarter!
No representatives from foreign media were present. This was due, on the one hand, to the fact that the national elections – here merely the first round – are taking place at the same time and, on the other hand – as the ARD correspondents informed us when we enquired by phone, the spark has gone: electoral re-runs have become a normal phenomenon, look at Spain, Belgium or currently Germany. Only the first two electoral rounds receive media attention and afterwards only if there is a sex scandal or one of the leading candidates is murdered.
The public aren’t even interested with jokes such as electoral Dösis.
Only rarely are congratulations received from abroad: US-President Donald Trump sent a congratulatory telegram to both candidates which began with the words:
As in the last re-run, well-meaning words were sent from Zimbabwe and North Korea:
A dictatorship is the only option.
The turnout this time was 9.4%, a reduction of 10% compared to May of this year, despite free coffee and cake in all polling stations across the country.
“This is the very last time that I will be going”,
Anna B. from the tenth district in Vienna told us, „and only cos I think Haider is brilliant.“
Election experts no longer speak about election fatigue but rather election sleep. Even social media shows little interest in the election: The Facebook support groups of both candidates have only 527 members. Neither van der Bellen’s election slogan Heimat für immer (Homeland Forever) nor Hofer’s Jetzt erst recht rechts”(Now it’s right to be right) campaign has managed to motivate voters. In an age of Pokemon run and climate warming (the public swimming pools are open this year until the middle of October) it appears that politics have gone out of fashion.
Norbert Hofer couldn’t resist a small dig at ORF: At least he has managed to prevent van der Bellen from achieving one of his most important electoral aims: to prevent the swearing in of HC Strache as Chancellor.
Translation German-English: Donna Stockenhuber
|hofer vdb||Heiko Heinisch||CC BY-SA 3.0/2.0|