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Austrian presidential elections: Who are the seven candidates?

Austrians will have a large selection of candidates to be the next leader at the Hofburg presidential palace, with a record number of seven men running to be Austria's next head of state. But who are they?

Austrian presidential elections: Who are the seven candidates?
Austria's Hofburg, the residence and work place of the president. (Photo by Jörg Bauer on Unsplash)

Austria’s presidential election will take place on October 9th with seven candidates vying to take over at the Hofburg – the official workplace of the country’s president.

That reflects the highest number of candidates ever to stand for the election.

All of them are men, all are white and all Austrians of course. The youngest is 35 years old, and the oldest is 78.

Besides the current president, Alexander Van der Bellen, six other men are also vying for the job: Walter Rosenkranz, supported by the right-wing party FPÖ, Dominik Wlazny, from the left-leaning Bierpartei, Michael Brunner, supported by the “neutral” MGF, Gerald Grosz, formerly FPÖ/BZÖ, and Tassilo Wallentin and Heinrich Staudinger, both not affiliated to any parties.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How does Austria’s presidential election work?

Who are the candidates?

Alexander Van der Bellen, 78 years old, is the current president of Austria and is running for reelection. He was a spokesman for the Austrian Green Party but paused his affiliation while acting as president.

Born in Vienna to an Austrian father and an Estonian mother, he spent most of his childhood studying economics in Tyrol.

Walter Rosenkranz, 60 years old, is affiliated with the right-wing FPÖ party and was a member of the National Council until 2019. He was that year sworn in as Volksanwalt (public prosecutor).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Who are MFG – Austria’s vaccine-sceptic party?

Dominik Wlazny, 35 years old, is known by his artistic name Marco Pogo. Wlazny is an Austrian musician (and doctor) and founder and chairman of left-leaning Die Bierpartei (Austria’s Beer Party).

Michael Brunner, 61 years old, is affiliated with the “neutral” MGF party, made famous for its anti-vaccine stances during the pandemic. He holds a doctorate in law from the University of Vienna.

Gerald Grosz, 45 years old, is a political columnist and a former politician for the FPÖ and the BZÖ.

Tassilo Wallentin, 48 years old, is running independently. He is a lawyer who studied at the Univeristy of Salzburg and the United States.

Heinrich Staudinger, 69 years old, is an Austrian businessman running independently for his first elections.

What does the Austrian President do?

The Federal President is the head of state of the Austrian Republic. Their role is to represent the Austrian state and its democracy. They should provide moral support to the country and assist in integrating minorities into the political process. The president also sign bills into laws and swears in new ministers and chancellors.

In many ways, Austria’s president is compared to the role of the monarch in the UK and their political power is often viewed as symbolic.

For example, the president is not expected to intervene in the daily running of government but can make an appeal in certain situations.

A presidential mandate lasts for six years and they can only run for reelection once.

Can I vote in these elections?

Probably not. Some 18 percent of residents (or 1.4 million people) in Austria over the age of 16 do not have the right to vote because they are not citizens. The highest concentration of people who are not entitled to vote is in Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg.

In comparison, 20 years ago, Austria had just 580,000 people without the right to vote.

Only Austrian citizens aged 16 are allowed to vote in the presidential elections.

READ ALSO: Austrian presidential elections: Why 1.4 million people can’t vote

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Reader question: Can I vote in Austria’s presidential elections?

On October 9th, Austria will vote to elect a new president, but who can vote in these national elections?

Reader question: Can I vote in Austria's presidential elections?

Austria’s presidential election will take place on October 9th, with seven candidates vying to take over at the Hofburg – the official workplace of the country’s president.

According to opinion polls, the favourite to win is the current president Alexander Van der Bellen, who is running for reelection.

READ ALSO: Austrian presidential elections: Who are the seven candidates?

A presidential candidate must be an Austrian citizen, be eligible to vote in the National Assembly and be at least 35 years old on election day.

Members of ruling dynasties or families that reigned in the past are not eligible to run in the presidential election. This is to avoid a return to monarchy in Austria via the role of the Federal President.

Who can vote in these elections?

The only people allowed to vote in Austrian federal elections are Austrian citizens aged 16 or above.

That means foreigners – even those born and raised in Austria, are not entitled to choose a new president. Unless, of course, they take up Austrian citizenship (usually giving up their original citizenship).

Since Austria has a large proportion of foreigners in the population, many people will not be able to vote in these elections.

READ ALSO: ‘I pay taxes in Austria’: Anger as foreigners barred from Vienna council vote

In fact, some 18 percent of residents (or 1.4 million people) in Austria over the age of 16 do not have the right to vote because they are not citizens, with the highest concentration of ineligible people in Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg.

In comparison, 20 years ago, Austria had just 580,000 people without the right to vote.

Statistics Austria data evaluated by the APA shows that around 30 percent of the voting-age population in Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg are not entitled to vote. In Linz and Graz, it is about 25 percent.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How does Austria’s presidential election work?

However, there are some smaller communities in Austria where the number of people without the right to vote is even higher.

In Jungholz in Tyrol, 66 percent of the population are not eligible, followed by 51 percent in Mittelberg in Vorarlberg. Kittsee in Burgenland and Wolfsthal in Lower Austria also have high proportions of Slovakian residents who cannot vote.

Austrian citizenship

Currently, in Austria, if someone wants to take up citizenship via naturalisation, they must undergo an extensive and expensive process and fulfil specific criteria.

Generally, there needs to be at least ten years of lawful and uninterrupted residence in Austria. But there are exceptions for those with citizenship of an EU or EEA country, those born in Austria, or married to an Austrian, for example.

READ ALSO: Could Austria change the rules around citizenship?

The main hurdles, however, include having to give up any other citizenships, as Austria doesn’t allow for dual citizenship in naturalisation cases with few exceptions, and the payment of a high fee, which depends on the municipality, but could reach thousands of euros.

And though the topic of easing the requirements has come up several times in Austria, the country doesn’t seem any closer to changing its citizenship laws.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Where in Europe can non-EU foreigners vote in local elections?

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