Fidesz luminaries react to outcome of Austria’s presidential election

December 5, 2016

Austria's new President-elect, Alexander van der Bellen
Austria’s new President-elect, Alexander van der Bellen

Far-right Austrian politician Norbert Hofer was defeated in yesterday’s presidential election, and conceded to his rival, Green party-backed candidate Alexander van der Bellen.

In Hungary, media outlets close to the ruling Fidesz party have long informally supported Austria’s far-right Freedom Party. Newspapers and websites owned by businessmen close to Fidesz, including pro-government daily online and print daily Magyar Hírlap, have particularly emphasized Hofer’s views on migration.  In its pre-election guide, wrote that when it comes to the issue of migration, “Hofer from the beginning held a strict view, which largely mirrors the position of the Hungarian government.”

Following the election, the Budapest Beacon asked four Hungarian public figures — three Fidesz politicians and one think-tank researcher close to the party — to share their views on the outcome of Austria’s presidential race and the future of Hungarian-Austrian relations.

The Fidesz reactions are notable for their diversity. Fidesz politician Gergely Gulyás, for example, says he regrets that Austria’s conservative mainstream party’s candidate did not make it to the second round of elections. On the other hand, Balázs Orbán, the Director of Research at Századvég, a think-tank associated with Fidesz, emphasizes the significance of the fact that no establishment party made it to the final round and believes this is a signal that mainstream parties need to adapt.

These are the reactions they shared with the Budapest Beacon in full:

Gergely Gulyás, Member of the Hungarian Parliament (Fidesz)

“Of course we acknowledge the outcome of the elections and do congratulate the elected president. Austria is one of Hungary’s most important political and economical partners, therefore a cooperation of the democratically elected functionaries is in the common interest of our two countries.

We regret that the candidate of the European People’s Party, the ÖVP candidate, did not make it to the second round, but this is already a result of the first round in April. In general, we trust in the cooperation with the elected president.”

György Schöpflin, Member of the European Parliament for Hungary (European People’s Party-Fidesz)

“Relations with Austria are structured at many levels. The presidential level is less significant than relations between governments. These have improved.”

Balázs Orbán, Director of Research and member of the board, Századvég Foundation

“What needs to be emphasized with regard to the Austrian-Hungarian relations is that the two countries have a very similar geopolitical position, therefore smooth cooperation between the two countries is a must. In light of this fact the relations between the two countries started to normalize already when the former Austrian chancellor, Mr. Werner Faymann, was in office.

This normalization process continued to evolve under the new chancellor, Mr. Christian Kern. I wish to highlight the role of Mr. Sebastian Kurz, who is taking a huge part in the dialogue process between the two countries. In my opinion cooperation and dialogue will continue under the presidency of Mr. Alexander van der Bellen as well.

From the perspective of political science the Austrian presidential elections were also very exciting. Both SPÖ and ÖVP were punished by the voters because of the lack of adaptability skills. This is the reason why the presidential elections were decided between the not so mainstream parties, the FPÖ and the Greens. This shows clearly that the current European tendency (with the rising anti-establishment parties from the left and right) is still visible so the establishment parties need to change all around Europe.”

Zoltán Kovács, spokesman for the Hungarian government

“We congratulate the new president and (obviously) respect the decision of the Austrian people; Austro-Hungarian relations are historical and strategic in nature. We are ready to continue working together.”