After tabloid newspapers likened Austria to a “banana republic” when its presidential election re-run was once again delayed, one man created a new version of Austria’s coat of arms – showing an eagle clutching bananas.
City architect and master builder Markus Voglreiter from Obertrum in Salzburg had the eagle flags flying outside his office – but was ordered to take them down by the police on Monday afternoon.
He could be charged under section 248 of the Austrian Criminal Code, which stipulates that anyone who publicly “insults, belittles or otherwise disparages” the flag or any other symbol of the Republic of Austria faces up to six months in prison or a fine.
However, Voglreiter insists the whole thing is just a bit of fun and is not meant to disparage Austria in any way.
Austria's presidential election re-run is being held on December 4th, after an October date was delayed because of a problem with the glue on postal votes. The last election result from May was annulled after Austria's highest court upheld the narrowly defeated far-right's claims of procedural irregularities.
Voglreiter said that he met up with an artist friend Manfred Kiwek and that they spoke about “the fact that what’s going on in our Republic should be documented in some artistic way. He suggested the idea of the eagle clutching the banana and we thought it could work as a flag… with a smile, we hoisted it in front of my office building.”
He added that the flag is meant to make people smile: “The eagle is wearing a funny hat, and of course he has some bananas in his talons – and in addition he looks a bit crazy.” He said that so far he’s not had any negative reactions from the public, and that most passers-by have stopped to have a chuckle.
A few people have even come into the office and asked where they can get a similar flag. Voglreiter said he’s already sold 50 flags.
Austria’s coat of arms depicts a crowned eagle holding a sickle and a hammer – to represent agriculture and industry. Broken chains were added to the eagle’s legs in 1945, to symbolise the liberation from National Socialism.