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Van der Bellen could avoid run-off in presidential election as still strong favourite: poll

Incumbent Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen could win this October's presidential election with an absolute majority in the first round, avoiding a run-off, the results of a recent poll showed.

Austria's President Alexander Van der Bellen delivers a speech in 2021.
Austria's President Alexander Van der Bellen delivers a speech in 2021. He is currently the favourite of seven candidates vying to win Austria's presidential election this October. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Van der Bellen can count on 59 percent of the vote, according to a poll carried out by Unique Research for news magazine Profil and daily Heute.

That’s less than the last survey conducted in August, but it still gives the 78-year-old a strong lead, well ahead of his closest opponents Walter Rosenkranz (13 percent), who is affiliated with the right-wing FPÖ party, and Gerald Grosz, formerly FPÖ/BZÖ (9 percent).

The poll was conducted by telephone and online between September 7th and 15th, 2022.

First of all, 1,600 Austrians over the age of 16 were asked how likely they were to go and vote on election day – October 9th.

62 percent said they would definitely vote and these 993 people were then also asked the ‘Sunday question’: if the presidential election were to take place next Sunday, who would you vote for?

According to the poll, 59 percent of those asked said they would vote for Van der Bellen, who used to head up the Austrian Green Party but suspended his membership in 2016 during his previous candidacy for the presidential election. 

A comparable Unique Research poll from August put the figure at 66 percent.

A graphic of the poll results, which shows Van der Bellen, the oldest candidate, leading the field, as published by Der Standard on September 17th, 2022.

However, this decline was to be expected as “the rest of the field of competitors was still unclear” in August, according to opinion pollster Peter Hajek, Austrian news agency APA reported.

‘Run-off unlikely’

On the basis of the survey, Hajek said that Van der Bellen had “all the trump cards”, explaining that his electorate was “very well mobilised” and sure they will vote for Van der Bellen, which was not the case with his competitors.

Furthermore, Van der Bellen should be able to build on broad support from the centre-left SPÖ, the centre-right ÖVP, the Green and liberal Neos electorates, he said.

“From today’s perspective, everything speaks in favour of the incumbent, a run-off election seems unlikely – as long as there are no more surprises in this intensive election campaign,” he added.

The poll puts FPÖ candidate Rosencrantz in second place, with his rating unchanged from the August results.

“Walter Rosenkranz is currently unable to exploit the FPÖ’s potential, which is also due to the strong competition in the right-wing camp,” especially Gerald Grosz, said Hajek.

Political columnist and former FPÖ/BZÖ politician Grosz has been able to improve his standing slightly from August, rising from 6 to 9 percent in the poll.

“Second place (for Rosenkranz) isn’t statistically secure yet, since the lead over Grosz isn’t significant,” Hajek noted.

He believes that Rosenkranz has the advantage of a well-mobilised electorate, plus, unlike his competitors, he can count on the support of the FPÖ party, while Grosz has positioned himself well with a clear focus and communication.

No chance for Brunner and Staudinger

The former Krone newspaper columnist and lawyer Tassilo Wallentin, who is casting for votes in a similar pool, also saw his rating improve from August, rising to 8 percent from 6 percent last month.

Wallentin is not affiliated to a party, but picks up votes from the FPÖ, as well as from the SPÖ and ÖVP, Hajek explained, adding that for him a lot will depend on whether he can still gain points in the intensive election campaign.

Musician and left-leaning Bierpartei head Dominik Wlazny was able to increase his approval from 5 to 7 percent this month.

Hajek explained that Wlazny is the candidate of the young centre-left electorate.

“Particularly SPÖ and Neos voters who don’t warm to Van der Bellen switch to Wlazny,” he said.

MFG boss Michael Brunner and shoe manufacturer Heinrich Staudinger are trailing the approval ratings poll with just 2 percent each.

The federal presidential election will take place on October 9th 2022 as Alexander Van der Bellen reaches the end of his six-year term as president. 

Van der Bellen announced he would stand for a second term last May.

Seven candidates – the highest number ever to stand for the election – are vying to take over at the Hofburg – the official workplace of the country’s president.

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POLITICS

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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