They called it an “election gimmick” and a “campaign gag”, but the new president-elect of Austria once presided over his party’s campaign that declared: “Anyone who loves Austria must be shit”.
Alexander Van der Bellen – who appears to have defeated the Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer by around just 30,000 of nearly five million votes – has a track record of opposing the nation state as a concept, and his own as a reality.
In 2007, while he was leader of the Austrian Greens, the party published a picture of a dog with the Austrian flag in its mouth. The poster read: “Take your flag for your gag”, followed by the declaration that anyone who loves the country “must be sh*t”.
The flag “joke” was a play on a campaign urging dog owners to place their dog’s excrement in bags and trash cans. The Austrian greens replaced the bag with a flag of Austria in the image (right).
And while, of course, efforts were made to distance Van der Bellen from this 2007 Green Party initiative, the issue re-emerged on the run up to this weekend’s final round of presidential election voting. Far be it from a “gag” or one-off incident, critics say, this attitude against borders and nations runs deep through the Austrian Green Party which is now in charge of the presidency of the country.
Newspapers drew attention to another more recent incident, whereby a leading Green activist declared: “Austria [is a] lousy piece of shit!” when discussing the country’s recent border controls to deal with Europe’s migrant crisis. “These are facts, not subjective opinion,” Georg H. posted to his Facebook page.
Perhaps it is unsurprising that the son of Russian aristocrats would have little affinity to his country of birth, but Van der Bellen’s politics have taken an extreme turn over the course of his life.
He now opposes nation statehood in general, instead arguing that European Union member states should move towards full EU federalism. This means a ‘United States of Europe’ made up of ‘states’ in a loose, American sense.
And just like his German counterparts, Van der Bellen argues that refugees are an economic opportunity to integrate “young, intelligent workers”. This is despite masses of evidence emerging over the past year that shows most migrants into Europe are not intelligent workers, but rather, completely illiterate and scarcely skilled.
While people are quick to point out that the office of the president in Austria is mostly ceremonial, he still has the power to swear in the head of the federal government, the Chancellor. And on this point Van der Bellen has been pretty clear: he wouldn’t do it.
Speaking to the Kurier.at, he said: “One should not underestimate the political position of President. He is elected by popular vote with an absolute majority. My position is that coordination at European level is more important than ever. The big questions about refugees can only be resolved at EU level. A party which has the EU’s destruction in mind is not appropriate, in my view, to serve as Chancellor.”
Pressed further, he added: “The issue was not that the FPÖ would not be able to govern. It’s about whether [HC] Strache could be the Federal Chancellor. Here I am clearly of the opinion, with the information currently available and the statements of Strache and Kickl: [It is] Hard to imagine.”
No doubt this would cause a major constitutional crisis in the country, if the president refuses to swear in the Chancellor of the most popular political party.
In his own party’s words: “Anyone who loves Austria must be shit”… if he swears in Strache and FPO, in his own frame of thinking, he would be putting a turd in charge of the country.
The next Austrian legislative elections are in 2018.