Austria has a new president-elect, Alexander Van der Bellen, a Green Party economist who ultimately prevailed over the xenophobic right, and a new chancellor, Christian Kern (pictured), the former director of railways, though not a technocrat, who has already given signals to the left: “We must regain the hegemony from the right and reaffirm the Social Democratic fundamental principles.” It’s the opposite of the rightward sprint of his predecessor, Werner Faymann.
But will they be able to change the Austrian policy of walling off immigrants and refugees? It is too early to say.
In recent days, Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka sent more policemen to the Brenner Pass. On Wednesday, the outgoing President of the Republic, Heinz Fischer, ratified a restrictive amendment to the asylum law passed by the coalition government of Social Democrats and Popular parties before the arrival of Kern and his four new ministers. The new law authorizes the state to reject any asylum request if the country is under a declared state of emergency. The Popular Party conditioned its approval in order to accept the radical changes of the Social Democratic leadership.