ÖVP MEP Karas to vote Fischer

Othmar Karas has come out as the first major People’s Party (ÖVP) representative to declare his intention to vote for incumbent president Heinz Fischer in the upcoming elections.The Member of the European Parliament (MEP) told the Kurier newspaper today (Fri): “Dr Heinz Fischer is the only eligible candidate from a European policies point of view.”ÖVP boss Josef Pröll has been harshly criticised for deciding not to nominate an own candidate for the 25 April presidential election. Pollsters have seen Fischer as clear favourite, but stressed Erwin Pröll – Lower Austrian ÖVP Governor and uncle of Josef Pröll – has the potential to force Fischer in a run-off ballot.Erwin Pröll ruled out a candidacy last year after months of speculations in the press. He however appealed to party colleagues to nominate a candidate to challenge Fischer.ÖVP Agriculture Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich and party whip Karlheinz Kopf revealed recently they were considering invalidating their vote or voting “white”.But Karas, the European People’s Party vice-chair, said today: “White is no political colour. I appeal to the people to vote and make their decision.”Karas also revealed understanding for the “feeling of political vacuum” among people in regard of the election since Fischer – a former Social Democratic (SPÖ) whip – is tipped for a landslide win by analysts.Asked who was responsible for the situation, he said: “The candidates themselves as well as the ÖVP and the Greens.”Fischer has been criticised for weighing up every word he says overly carefully, while the Freedom Party’s (FPÖ) Barbara Rosenkranz – who is seen around 10 per cent – came under fire over failing to disassociate herself from Nazi era crimes until recently.The Greens did not nominate an own candidate over little chances for victory and the fact that campaign costs would not be returned by the state as is the case in provincial and general elections depending on parties’ successes.Greens chief Eva Glawischnig however said she would place her cross next to Fischer’s name. “He did a decent job during the past six years,” she said.Karas meanwhile revealed Fischer accepted an invitation to an upcoming platform discussion organised by his “Bürgerforum Europa 2020” (European Citizens Forum 2020).Asked why he eventually decided not to run for president himself, he claimed it would have been on too short notice after his name was first handled last month.Rudolf Gehring meanwhile caused controversy by attacking government ministers.The presidential candidate of the fringe The Christians Party – which is not represented in the federal parliament – said: “Had I been in Fischer’s position, I would not have sworn in Josef Pröll as finance minister. Pröll might be a nice and sociable person, but he has no idea about financial issues.Gehring added he would not have sworn in SPÖ Defence Minister Norbert Darabos either.”He has no idea about the army and is not a person of authority for army chiefs,” he said.