Greens to decide on presidential candidate this month

The Greens are to decide on whether or not to nominate a presidential candidate this month, party leader Eva Glawischnig revealed today (Tues).She said: “There are still contrary opinions within the party over the issue,” adding that the opposition party would make a decision at a meeting of its federal board on 19 February.Presidential elections are set to take place on 25 April, and incumbent president Heinz Fischer – a former Social Democratic (SPÖ) Science Minister – is seen as clear favourite.Fischer announced his decision to run for a second term in office last November.The 71-year-old beat the People’s Party’ (ÖVP) candidate Benita Ferrero-Waldner at the 2004 presidential election and if he wins again his second term will be his last as the Austrian constitution prevents a president taking office for a third term.Greens chief Glawischnig claimed nominating a candidate would be a “huge effort”, adding that all of the party’s nine provincial departments would need to back a candidacy.A major aspect parties need to consider is the fact that they are not compensated for expenses spent in the campaign – in contrast to provincial or federal elections where the state provides funds for competing parties’ campaigns.Glawischnig said the upcoming provincial elections in Burgenland, Styria and Vienna had priority for the party, whose possible presidential candidate, analysts have said, would stand no chance against Fischer.The Greens leader meanwhile refused to dismiss rumours her predecessor could be heavily involved in the party’s provincial elections campaigns. Asked whether Alexander Van der Bellen could be presented as member of the Vienna Greens campaign team, she said: “I could imagine this happening.”Van der Bellen – a Greens MP after stepping down as party leader after 11 years in charge after the 2008 general elections – recently said he would not stand as the party’s presidential candidate.Analysts have meanwhile pointed out Fischer’s bid for a second term in office could face a serious challenge if both Van der Bellen and a conservative candidate nominated by the ÖVP or by the right-wing opposition party the Freedom Party (FPÖ) run for the post.Van der Bellen could win the support of left-wing voters who would support Fischer if the Greens do not nominate a candidate, according to research, while the running of a popular conservative candidate might force a run-off vote – needed if one candidate fails to win an absolute majority in the first round.ÖVP chiefs have yet to announce whether their party will put forward a candidate, while FPÖ boss Heinz-Christian Strache earlier this month said his party would nominate someone to challenge Fischer. Ultra-conservative mother-of-ten Barbara Rosenkranz – who heads the party’s Lower Austrian branch – is rumoured to be in the running.Right-wing opposition party the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) is reportedly considering putting forward its federal leader Josef Bucher as a candidate. The party slumped in new polls after most members of its Carinthian branch decided to form the Carinthian Freedom Party (FPK) and support the FPÖ at federal level.