- Title: Austrian presidential hopeful aims to hammer far right with Trump's own message
- Date: 11th November 2016
- Summary: VIENNA, AUSTRIA (NOVEMBER 11, 2016) (REUTERS) FORMER GREENS LEADER AND CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT ALEXANDER VAN DER BELLEN DURING INTERVIEW VAN DER BELLEN CLOSE (SOUNDBITE) (German) FORMER GREENS LEADER AND CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT ALEXANDER VAN DER BELLEN, SAYING: "It is, I think, a mistake to change strategy in a short-term panic, you can refine and change tactics, but not the broad line." HANDS VAN DER BELLEN SPEAKING TO JOURNALISTS (SOUNDBITE) (German) FORMER GREENS LEADER AND CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT ALEXANDER VAN DER BELLEN, SAYING [ASKED WHAT TACTICAL CHANGES HE'LL MAKE NOW] "Point out slightly more directly what it means if you support Donald Trump in such a fervent manner. Does it mean you also support what he said during the campaign? Does it mean you are against health insurance in Austria? Does it mean you want to wall off the borders regardless of the consequences? Even if it means losing jobs in Austria? Europe does not look at that trump has said without worry. But we don't know what he will do." VAN DER BELLEN HANDS (SOUNDBITE) (German) FORMER GREENS LEADER AND CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT ALEXANDER VAN DER BELLEN, SAYING: "One can try to clarify certain points, like what the goals of Norbert Hofer really are, which has been clearly documented. On the other hand, I do not see a reason for changing the strategy, and I'm observing with a certain amount of sarcasm, that Mr Hofer is changing his strategy continuously. You only have to look at his election campaign until April or May after the Brexit decision and compare it to what he now says. It is unbelievable which differences you will find. I just remind you, after the Brexit decision of the majority of the Britons, the FPO (the anti-immigration Freedom Party) and Mr Hofer have emphatically welcomed that decision. And together with Madame Le Pen they have celebrated here in Vienna, they have celebrated the Brexit decision here in Vienna. Only a week later, or maybe it was two weeks, they have realised in Austria it does not find sympathy or approval of the majority of the people. And so the issue was over and done with. Now, they are not in favour of the Oexit, the exit of Austria from the European Union. The citizen has to decide how believable that is." VAN DER BELLEN CLOSE (SOUNDBITE) (German) FORMER GREENS LEADER AND CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT ALEXANDER VAN DER BELLEN, SAYING: "We just saw how much opinion polls are worth during Trump's election. And for a change, that applies to Austria as well as for the United States. That alone does not unsettle me. Rather I would say that we just don't know (what effect it will have). It can be that those feel encouraged who favoured this kind of style of campaigning and those messages, but also the opposite can be the case, that a shock goes through the population, and they say that at least in Austria we do not want any experiments of this kind." VAN DER BELLEN SPEAKING TO JOURNALISTS
- Embargoed: 26th November 2016 16:43
- Keywords: Austria election Van der Bellen Trump
- Location: VIENNA, AUSTRIA
- City: VIENNA, AUSTRIA
- Country: Austria
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA0015804SAV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The independent candidate in Austria's tight presidential run-off plans to use the far right's support for Donald Trump as a weapon against it to ensure the U.S. election outcome will not help his opponent as many suspect.
Former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen narrowly won a run-off in May against the anti-immigration Freedom Party's Norbert Hofer, but the result was overturned in July. The re-run is due to be held on Dec. 4.
Events since the original run-off, including Britain's vote to exit the European Union, appear to have had little effect on the race for Austria's largely ceremonial presidency, with polls giving a slight edge to Hofer but within the margin of error.
But Trump's victory on Tuesday (November 8), on top of Brexit, has raised the prospect of a right-wing populist wave sweeping the West.
A survey in Austria by pollster Market conducted on Tuesday found 58 percent of respondents believe Trump's victory would boost Hofer's chances of winning, with only 14 percent saying it would lift Van der Bellen.
"It is, I think, a mistake to change strategy in a short-term panic," Van der Bellen, a softly spoken, 72-year-old former economics professor, told Reuters in an interview on Friday (November 11). "You can refine and change tactics, but not the broad line."
Asked what tactical changes he had in mind, he said: "Point out slightly more directly what it means if you support Donald Trump in such a fervent manner. Does it mean you also support what he (promised) during the campaign? Does it mean you are against health insurance in Austria? Does it mean you want to wall off the borders whatever the cost?"
The Freedom Party (FPO), which like Trump has capitalised on grassroots fears about unemployment and immigration as well as anger at the political establishment, congratulated Trump on his victory. But it has been less enthusiastic in its support for him than some of its European allies, such as the far-right National Front in France.
Van der Bellen is also seeking to capitalise on Hofer's U-turn on Britain's Brexit vote - Hofer initially said Austria could hold its own referendum on leaving the EU within a year, but now no longer wants one.
"Mr Hofer is constantly changing his strategy," Van der Bellen said, and was likely to dissolve parliament to bring about a snap election that polls suggest his party would win.
Van der Bellen has also said that a Hofer victory would lead to the FPO taking control of government, but he stopped short on Friday of saying he would use the president's influence in forming coalitions to block the FPO entirely.
It was not clear what effect Trump's victory would have in Austria, a country with less income disparity and a stronger welfare state than Britain or the United States, he said.
"We just saw how much opinion polls are worth during Trump's election," he said, referring to the stunning upset victory. "That alone does not unsettle me. Rather I would say that we just don't know (what effect it will have)."
The chain-smoking former economist added that while he understood some of the public anger fuelling support for his 45-year-old opponent, he was only willing to go so far in promising to make things better.
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