ÖVP and Greens end presidential election candidate rumours

Both the People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Greens announced yesterday (Thurs) they would not nominate their own candidate in the upcoming presidential elections.Lower Austrian ÖVP Governor Erwin Pröll recently made clear he would not run for the post. The announcement was preceded by weeks of speculation since the governor is regarded as the only possible candidate to challenge incumbent president Heinz Fischer.Federal ÖVP boss Josef Pröll yesterday said the party board had decided not to nominate a candidate. He claimed the main reason for the decision was that no incumbent president was beaten in Austria’s post-war history when he ran for a second term.Analysts meanwhile said Pröll was hoping for better chances for his party to overtake the Social Democrats (SPÖ) in the next federal elections if, with Fischer, a former SPÖ minister is federal president.Experts also pointed out that parties were not compensated their expenses in presidential elections – in contrast to federal and provincial elections depending on their success.Erwin Pröll, uncle of Vice Chancellor Josef Pröll, did not attend yesterday’s meeting of the party board – a decision rated as a sign of disagreement with the federal ÖVP’s decision which was expected for some time.Josef Pröll also said yesterday the ÖVP would not speak out in support of any other candidate.The Green Party also made clear yesterday they would not nominate an own candidate for the 25 April election.Party leader Eva Glawischnig said the upcoming provincial elections in Burgenland, Styria and Vienna had priority for the party.Asked whether the party would back left-wing Fischer, she said: “We will very precisely check his points of view on several topics such as gender equality, human rights and immigration.”Heinz-Christian Strache, head of the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ), announced last month his party would send its own candidate in the running. “We will ensure Fischer does not have to go into the election campaign on his own,” he said.Barbara Rosenkranz, head of the party’s department in Lower Austria, is expected to be nominated. Several provincial FPÖ bosses have made clear they found her a suitable candidate. Rumour meanwhile has it Strache himself could run for president.The Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) is still undecided over the issue.Heinz Fischer has been tipped for a landslide victory since it became clear Erwin Pröll would not run for the post.A very low participation in the vote is seen as the only factor that could harm his reputation during his second term which will last six years. Incumbent presidents are forbidden from running for a third term in office.Fischer beat the ÖVP’s candidate Benita Ferrero-Waldner in 2004. He was SPÖ whip, Science Minister and president of the parliament.Speaking about why he had decided to run for a second term, the 71-year-old claimed he had been encouraged by “many people with different political beliefs”.A recent OGM poll revealed 71 per cent of Austrians were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with Fischer’s performance.