He’s 72 years old, a former political economics professor at the universities of Vienna and Innsbruck, with a thin beard, often distracted. From 1997 to 2008, Alexander Van der Bellen was the national spokesman and leader of the Greens, a party that grew strong under his direction. His wry and thoughtful style, slow and decidedly non-populist, is perceived as being different and not comparable to the hated “caste of politicians.” An anti-establishment character, known for his thoughtful pauses, enjoys widespread credibility beyond the Green camp and is convincing with his natural and autonomous demeanor.
Van der Bellen ran as an independent candidate in Sunday’s presidential elections. He secured just 21 percent of the vote, but it was enough to secure a runoff against Austria’s right-wing party. Van der Bellen was most successful in the big cities, in Vienna, Graz, Linz, Innsbruck and Bregenz, and among voters with higher education. His campaign is managed and financed by the Greens, by well-known writers, actors, lawyers and scientists of different political areas, who support him. A comeback for Van der Bellen will be difficult, but definitely possible if you take into account that 40 percent of usual Greens voters did not turn out at the polls.
He spoke with il manifesto by phone before Sunday’s vote.