A historic day in politics: not Boris, but Vienna calling

A potentially epoch-making day in European politics: no, not the shenanigans in London on Thursday (of which a brief mention in a moment), but in Vienna on Friday.

The Austrian Supreme Court has ordered a rerun of May’s knife-edge Presidential Election, in which Alexander von Bellen, a Green, held off the Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party by just 31,000 votes or just 0.7%.

According to Reuters, “the court found no proof that the result had been manipulated, but the possibility that it might have been affected was enough for a challenge to succeed”. Officials in some areas, racing to provide a result, breached protocols on by counting postal votes on the evening of the vote, and not on the day after the election in front of party observers.

Current President Heinz Fischer, whose term runs out on July 8, has said the rerun will most likely take place in the autumn.

Although Austria has a ceremonial Presidency, a victory for Hofer would send shockwaves across Europe. Hofer has called for German-speaking parts of South Tyrol, part of Italy since 1918, to be annexed by Austria and flirts with Nazi imagery and pan-Germanism. The symbolism of a far-right President of the country that produced Hitler will strain the idea of Austria being a ‘normal’ EU country.

As for events at Westminster, Boris’ defenestration, while highly amusing – the Vicar of Bray has just been deprived of his living – snatches a significant strand of hope from Remainers still entertaining the idea that Brexit can be averted. It’s hard to think of anyone other than Boris who would have the chutzpah and salesmanship to even attempt to walk back a national referendum vote on a big turnout. That, indeed, is one of the reasons why the decision was taken to torpedo his candidacy.

Apart from that, a contest between ideologically similar figures equally committed to pursuing Brexit now the vote has taken place, is not necessarily of great importance.

Theresa May must be the hot favourite now. We’ve seen many twists and turns in UK politics this year, but it’s hard to imagine May having career-destroying skeletons in her closet.

If May calls a snap General Election with a honeymoon factor and a dismembered opposition, she may well win big. Then she’s the tough Mummy figure voters love in scary times (c.f. Merkel, Angela) and may well build from there: all depends on the state of a UK-EU settlement and the economic effect of Brexit.

A final thought – petrol was 110.9p in Tesco this evening. Bregret is not going to happen while that is the case.

  • Gopher

    Dutch general election 2017, French Presidential election 2017, German Federal election 2017. I’m not sure if Europeans have the same obsession with politics as we do here in the UK and have the same long campaigns but one would have to imagine the 2017 campaigning season will start early in Europe. I’m guessing the principle issue in those elections will be immigration since the UK has let the genie out of the bottle. The winner of the Conservative party election is not going to call a general election unless they are stupid this side the blood letting there will be on the continent next year. Nope the next Prime Minister will have their hands full pushing buttons.

  • Chingford Man

    Theresa May’s appointment would mean rich pickings for UKIP from both Tory and Labour. A Gove or Leadsom premiership would limit UKIP to Labour. Besides, May has already said she will not call an election, although that may of course change.

    I’m not sure that Michael Gove would win a leadership contest with her. I suspect Andrea Leadsom might.

  • Gerry Lynch

    “Theresa May’s appointment would mean rich pickings for UKIP from both Tory and Labour” – wishful thinking. She was a closet Brexiteer and she’ll implement Brexit, anyway.

    Leadsom has a bit of mo’ now, either she or Crabb will make a decent fight of this, more so than tired old Fox or Gove the assassin.

  • terence patrick hewett

    I think that the difference is that politics here is confrontational not consensual and Europe finds this very unsettling. The ruthlessness in which we de facto despatched the Prime Minister, his government and the EU all in 24 hours they find utterly shocking.

  • chrisjones2

    Wasn’t this the election where Junker was quoted as saying that the EU would not accept nay result or Government policies that might contravene the Commissions objectives/ EU Law?

    Now it seems there were widespread ‘errors’ in the count process that may have favoured the incumbent Government …I wonder why

  • chrisjones2

    I know ….its called accountability

    The EU finds it especially scary . almost as bad as the words budget referendum and audit

  • Gopher

    I think because the recent European political history is filled with coups and popular unrest (1961&1968 France, 1982 Spain) and administrative collapse, thrice in the 20th century in Germany and Austria. That seems why politics on the continent is never as robust. I believe this will change in the forthcoming cycle as the issue of immigration has widespread political utility. It will be interesting to see if Europe can survive the electoral shocks the UK has so far endured.

  • Brendan Heading

    A Gove or Leadsom premiership would limit UKIP to Labour

    perhaps not ..

    “The Mail on Sunday newspaper called her a “hypocrite” after unearthing comments from 2013 in which she said that leaving the EU would be “a disaster for our economy and would risk “a decade of economic and political uncertainty”.

  • Colin Lamont

    Imagine the Brexit referendum was rerun on similar grounds- all hell really would break loose. Common sense, if not legal technicalities, would dictate that the Presidential election result should be allowed to stand.

  • Gerry Lynch

    Use a pen when you vote. That way MI5 can’t rub it out. #DemandVideo #truth