Alexander Van der Bellen

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Alexander Van der Bellen
Alexander Van der Bellen 2016 cropped.jpg
President of Austria
Assumed office
26 January 2017
Chancellor Christian Kern
Sebastian Kurz
Vice-Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner
Wolfgang Brandstetter
Heinz-Christian Strache
Preceded by Heinz Fischer
Federal spokesman of the Green Party
In office
13 December 1997 – 3 October 2008
Preceded by Christoph Chorherr
Succeeded by Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek
Member to the National Council
In office
7 November 1994 – 5 July 2012
Nominated by Peter Pilz
Affiliation The Greens
Personal details
Born Alexander Van der Bellen
(1944-01-18) 18 January 1944 (age 74)
Vienna, Nazi Germany
(now Vienna, Austria)
Nationality Estonian (1944–1958)
Austrian (since 1958)
Political party The Greens (1992–present)
Other political
Social Democratic Party (Before 1992)
  • Brigitte Hüttner
    (div. 2015)
  • Doris Schmidauer (m. 2015)
Children 2 sons (with Brigitte)
Parents Alma Sieboldt
Alexander Van der Bellen
Relatives Van der Bellen family
Residence Vienna (primary)[1]
Kaunertal, Tyrol (secondary)
Alma mater University of Innsbruck (Dr. rer. oec.)
Website Presidential Website
Presidential Twitter
Presidential Instagram
Nickname(s) Sascha

Alexander Van der Bellen (German pronunciation: [ˌalɛˈksandɐ fan dɛɐ̯ ˈbɛlən]; born 18 January 1944) is the 12th and current President of Austria. He previously served as a university professor of economics and later, when entering politics, as the federal spokesman of the Green Party.[2][3]

A member of the noble Russian Van der Bellen family of Dutch ancestry, he was born in Austria to aristocratic Russian and Estonian parents who were refugees from Stalinism, and became a naturalised Austrian citizen together with his parents in 1958. He was as a member to the National Council representing the Green Party from 1994 to 2012, and served as both leader of the party and its parliamentary faction.[4][5]

He ran as a nominally independent candidate supported by the Greens in the 2016 presidential election, and finished second out of six in the first round before winning the second round against Norbert Hofer, a member of the Freedom Party.[6][7] On 1 July, before he was due to be sworn into office, the results of the second round of voting were annulled by the Constitutional Court due to absentee votes being improperly counted too early, requiring the election to be re-held.[8] On 4 December 2016, he won the ensuing election, taking approximately 54% of the vote.[9]

Van der Bellen has described himself as a centrist liberal[10] and supports green and social liberal policies. As discussed in his 2015 book,[11] he is supportive of the European Union and advocates European federalism.[12] During the presidential election, he appealed to the political centre and was endorsed by the leaders of both the Social Democratic Party and the conservative People's Party. Van der Bellen is the second green president of a European Union country (after Raimonds Vējonis of Latvia) and the first to be directly elected by popular vote.[13]

Personal life

Origin and youth

In 1700 or 1763 the ancestors of Van der Bellen emigrated from Holland into the Russian Empire. During Russian Civil War a part of his family escaped from the Bolsheviki and migrated to the newly independent Estonia. Before this Van der Bellen's grandfather Aleksander von der Bellen served as the head of the civilian regional government of Pskow. Claiming Dutch origins the family changed its name from „von der Bellen“ into „Van der Bellen“. In 1931 Van der Bellen's father, who was also called Alexander, married Alma Sieboldt in Kihelkonna on Saaremaa. Furthermore, Van der Bellen obtained the Estonian citizenship. In June 1940 as a result of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact Estonia was invaded by the Soviet Union and later on annexed. Subsequently, in February or March 1941 Van der Bellen father, mother and older sister Vivian-Diana moved to the national socialist German Reich, upon the German–Soviet Frontier Treaty they were there accepted as so called Volksdeutsche. Van der Bellen's Father had to fear repression by the soviet secret service NKWD because of his origins and occupation as an international bank manager.

Over Laugszargen (Memelland) and a German resettlement camp in Werneck at Würzburg his parents came to Vienna, where there son Alexander Van der Bellen was born in 1944 and baptized evangelically. As the Red Army approached Vienna as part of the Vienna Offensive, the Family escaped to the Kaunertal in Tyrol, where is father later on became active as a businessman again.

In 1954, after completing a primary school in Innsbruck, he started visiting the Akademisches Gymnasium Innsbruck where he graduated in 1962 and received his Matura. Until this time Van der Bellen only had an Estonian citizenship like his parents, in 1958 (or 1959) he obtained the Austrian citizenship. According to Van der Bellen himself he stated to not have done the Austrian military service at the Bundesheer.

He volunteered to undergo a Musterung (military fitness check) twice, the first one resulted with him being rated as unfit (untauglich), however, he successfully passes the second one. Later, he got several respite during his studies and after his marriage. After that Van der Bellen was no long summoned, which attributed to his subsequent professorship.


After receiving his Matura Van der Bellen started studying economics at the University of Innsbruck. He completed his studies in 1966 as Diplom-Volkswirt. With his dissertation Kollektive Haushalte und gemeinwirtschaftliche Unternehmungen: Probleme ihrer Koordination ("Collective households and public-service enterprises: Problems of their coordination") he was promoted Dr. rer. oec (doctor rerum oeconomicarum) in December 1966. From 1968 to 1971 he served as a scientific assistant of Clemens August Andreae at the public finance institution of the University of Innsbruck and from 1972 to 1974 as Research Fellow at the international institution for management and administration of the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. After his own statement he there established friendship with Turkish economist Murat R. Sertel, with who he worked on decision and preference theories and later on published several articles and discussion papers.

In 1976 Van der Bellen was appointed extraordinary university professor at the Innsbruck University, where he remained until 1980. During this time he moved to Vienna to study and research from 1977 to 1980 at the Verwaltungsakademie des Bundes. From 1980 to 1999 he was extraordinary university professor for economics at the University of Vienna. Between 1990 and 1994 he there also became dean of the faculty for economics at University of Vienna. In October 1999 he became parliamentary leader of the Greens in the National Council and thus resigned as university professor in January 2009. In February the same year Van der Bellen retired.

His research focused on planning and financing procedures in the public sector, infrastructure financing, fiscal policy, public expenditure, government regulation policy, public undertakings and environmental and transport policy. He has published in professional journals such as the Die Betriebswirtschaft, Econometrica, Journal of Economic Theory, Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft, Public Choice, Wirtschaftspolitische Blätter and the Zeitschrift für öffentliche und gemeinwirtschaftliche Unternehmen.


Van der Bellen married when he was 18 years old and with 19 he became a father for the first time. His relationship with Brigitte (born Briggite Hüttner, 1943–2018) lasted over 50 years, until they divorced in 2015. He had two sons with Brigitte. Since December 2015 Van der Bellen is married with a longstanding friend and the managing director of the Greens Club, Doris Schmidauer. He lives in Vienna as well as in Kaunertal, Tyrol.


As a young man Van der Bellen left the Evangelical Church, because he was upset over his local pastor. According to his own words he does not believe in the one God, but in a "massage or vision" ("Botschaft oder Vision"), which in his view the new Testament states.


According to his own statement Van der Bellen joined the back then only existing Freemasonry in Innsbruck, although he participated at meetings for a year, which he described as "being active". "After that, as a purely passive member, I paid the membership fee for about 10 years and finally left on my explicit request" ("Danach habe ich als rein passives Mitglied noch etwa 10 Jahre lang den Mitgliedsbeitrag bezahlt und bin schließlich auf meinen expliziten Wunsch hin ausgeschieden"), Van der Bellen in a ZIB 2 elections interview with Armin Wolf (18 May 2016). According to Van der Bellen's own words he is no longer a Freemason.

Estonian Citizenship

After the second round of voting in the 2016 presidential elections, in which Van der Bellen achieved final victory, President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves congratulated him. The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Van der Bellen could get back his Estonian passport anytime. This is only possible because Van der Bellen's parents were Estonian citizens before the 16 June 1940, children of these parents are automatically accepted as citizens. Urmas Paet, former Foreign Minister of Estonia and a Member of the European Parliament said: "the election results are a reason to congratulate Austrians twice. For Estonia and its people, the fact that Austria has elected an Estonian citizen as its president also plays a role"


Van der Bellen is sometimes also called „Sascha“ (which is an abbreviation of his first name) by his friends, colleagues and within his party.

Political career

Van der Bellen in 2004

A former member of the Social Democratic Party,[14] Van der Bellen became Member of the National Council of Austria (Nationalrat) for the Austrian Green Party in 1994.[4] On 13 December 1997 he became their federal spokesperson,[15] and in 1999 became chairman of the Greens Parliamentary Party in the National Council.[4] He resigned after the September 2008 election, when the Greens lost votes for the first time in a decade.[5] In 2010 he became Commissioner of the City of Vienna for Universities and Research,[16] and in 2012 he left Parliament and joined the Vienna City Council.[17][18][19]

Political view

In 2001, Van der Bellen said that he turned from an "arrogant anti-capitalist" into a "broad-minded left-liberal" over the course of his political career.[10] In his 2015 autobiography, Van der Bellen described himself as a liberal positioned in the political centre while downplaying his earlier description as left-liberal,[11] and said he was inspired by the Anglo-Saxon liberal tradition, particularly John Stuart Mill.[10] He is strongly supportive of the European Union, and advocates European federalism.[11][12] During the 2016 presidential election, he appealed to the political centre and used "Unser Präsident der Mitte" (Our President of the Centre) for his campaign slogan.[20]

Van der Bellen has argued that Europe should accept refugees who have fled to Europe from war zones in Syria and elsewhere,[21] and has often mentioned his own background as the son of refugees in debates.[22] He has opposed the government's decision to impose a limit on how many asylum-seekers it will allow into Austria.[23]

Van der Bellen has commented that due to emerging Islamophobia and prejudice against women wearing headscarves, he could foresee a day when all non-Muslim women might also be asked to wear headscarves as a sign of solidarity with women who wear them on religious grounds.[24] The remarks were criticized widely, especially on the political right.[25]

Van der Bellen has criticized U.S. President Donald Trump.[26] He has opined that the British withdrawal from the European Union is damaging to the economies of both the United Kingdom and Europe.[27] He is opposed to recognising the Russian annexation of Crimea.[27] He has stated that the Austrian embassy in Israel should remain in Tel Aviv.[27]

Van der Bellen has criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his supporters after mass pro-Erdoğan protests by Turks in Austria, saying: "In Austria there is freedom to demonstrate as long as it is peaceful. [...] Everyone that accepts the right to demonstrate, has to see that the same rights – such as freedom of speech, press freedom, independent justice system, and freedom to demonstrate are being denied in Turkey by President Erdogan."[28][29]

Presidential elections

Van der Bellen ran as a nominally independent candidate supported by the Green Party in the 2016 presidential election,[30] and finished second in the first round before winning the second round against right-wing Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer.[7]

In the close second round Van der Bellen won 50.3% of the votes cast to Norbert Hofer's 49.7%,[6] a margin of 30,863 votes.[31] On 1 July 2016, a week before he was to take office, the results of the second round of voting were annulled by the Constitutional Court of Austria, requiring the election to be re-held.[8]

On 4 December 2016 Van der Bellen defeated Hofer in the re-run of the election with 53.8% of the votes,[32] increasing his margin of victory in terms of votes received by a factor of ten despite predictions that the new election would be similarly close.[2][33]

The fresh election saw an increase in voter turnout, from 72.7%[34] in May to 74.2%,[32] defying predictions that election fatigue and cold temperatures would lead to a reduction in participation. Hofer conceded soon after the first exit polls were reported.[31]

When sworn in, Van der Bellen became the first nationally elected European head of state with a green background: in 2015, Raimonds Vējonis of the Latvian Green Party became that nation's president through an indirect election.[13] Van der Bellen was sworn in on 26 January 2017.[3]

Honours and awards


  1. ^ "Die 10 wichtigsten Antworten zu Alexander Van der Bellen". (in German). Retrieved 2018-06-11. 
  2. ^ a b "Austria far-right candidate Norbert Hofer defeated in presidential poll". BBC Online. 4 December 2016. Retrieved 4 December 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Renon, Danielle (4 December 2016). "Autriche. Van der Bellen président: un soulagement face au populisme" [Austria. Van der Bellen President: A relief from populism]. Courrier International (in French). Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c "Bundessprecher und Klubobmann, Abgeordneter zum Nationalrat – Univ. Prof. Dr. Alexander Van der Bellen" (in German). Die Grünen. 14 September 2008. Archived from the original on 14 September 2008. 
  5. ^ a b "Van der Bellen sichtlich bewegt" (in German). ORF. September 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Smale, Alison (23 May 2016). "Austrian Far-Right Candidate Norbert Hofer Narrowly Loses Presidential Vote". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 May 2016. 
  7. ^ a b Osborne, Samuel (23 May 2016). "Austria presidential election result: Alexander Van der Bellelosess over far-right candidate Norbert Hofer". The Independent. Retrieved 4 December 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Oltermann, Philip (1 July 2016). "Austrian presidential election result overturned and must be held again". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2016. 
  9. ^ "Österreich - Bundespräsidentenwahl 2016". 
  10. ^ a b c Pink, Oliver (14 May 2016). "Wie links ist Van der Bellen?" [How left is Van der Bellen?]. Die Presse (in German). Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  11. ^ a b c Van der Bellen, Alexander (2015). Die Kunst der Freiheit: In Zeiten zunehmender Unfreiheit (in German). Brandstätter Verlag. ISBN 9783850339223. 
  12. ^ a b ""Wenn es die EU nicht gäbe, müsste man sie erfinden"" (in German). Die Grünen. 28 September 2015. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  13. ^ a b Connolly, Kate; Oltermann, Philip; Henley, Jon (23 May 2016). "Austria elects Green candidate as president in narrow defeat for far right". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 June 2016. 
  14. ^ Zbožínek, Jaroslav (23 April 2016). "Fischer končí – Rakousko volí novou hlavu státu" [Fischer ends - Austria elects new head of state]. (in Czech). Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  15. ^ "Die Karriere des Alexander Van der Bellen" [The career of Alexander Van der Bellen]. Wiener Zeitung (in German). 8 January 2016. Retrieved 23 May 2016. 
  16. ^ "Wiener Uni-Beauftragter stellt Ziele vor: Van der Bellen will "reden, reden, reden"" [Vienna Commissioner for Universities presents his goals: Van der Bellen wants to "talk, talk, talk"]. NEWS (in German). 23 February 2011. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  17. ^ "Alexander Van der Bellen: Abschied aus dem Nationalrat" [Alexander Van der Bellen: Farewell to the National Council]. Kleine Zeitung (in German). 6 July 2012. Archived from the original on 23 October 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2014. Alexander "Sascha" Van der Bellen verlässt den Nationalrat und wechselt in den Wiener Gemeinderat.
    (Translation: Alexander "Sascha" Van der Bellen leaving the National Council of Austria to join the Vienna City Council).
  18. ^ "The City Council - A body of the City of Vienna". Vienna City Council. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  19. ^ "Aufregung um Homepage von Van der Bellen" [Excitement around homepage of Van der Bellen]. Der Standard (in German). 9 August 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  20. ^ "Van der Bellen als "Unser Präsident der Mitte" im Finale" [Van der Bellen as "Our President of the Centre" in the final]. Wiener Zeitung (in German). 18 November 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  21. ^ "Divided Austria votes in rerun of presidential contest". Al-Jazeera. 4 December 2016.
  22. ^ correspondent, Jon Henley European affairs (23 May 2016). "Who are the two men who competed to be Austria's next president?" – via The Guardian. 
  23. ^ "Austrian election: why is it significant and what does it mean for EU policy on borders, migrants and refugees?". The Daily Telegraph. 24 April 2016.
  24. ^ "Van der Bellens Tag an dem alle Frauen Kopftuch tragen". 
  25. ^ "Austria's president suggested that every woman should wear a headscarf to fight Islamophobia". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-04-28. 
  26. ^ (12 November 2016). "Van der Bellen poltert gegen US-Präsident Trump und warnt vor FPÖ-Mann Hofer". 
  27. ^ a b c "Bundespräsidentenwahl: Wie Hofer und Van der Bellen ihre Außenpolitik anlegen würden". 
  28. ^ "Erdoğan supporters told to keep politics out of Austria". The Local. 19 July 2016.
  29. ^ "EU darf vor Erdogan nicht in die Knie gehen". Kronen Zeitung. 3 August 2016.
  30. ^ "Van der Bellen kandidiert zur Präsidentschaftswahl" [Van der Bellen candidate for President]. Der Standard (in German). 8 January 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  31. ^ a b Oltermann, Philip (5 December 2016). "Austria rejects far-right candidate Norbert Hofer in presidential election". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  32. ^ a b "Österreich - Bundespräsidentenwahl 2016". Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  33. ^ "Hochrechnung inkl. Briefwahlprognose von 19.57 Uhr". ORF (in German). 4 December 2016. Retrieved 4 December 2016. 
  34. ^ "Bundespräsidentenwahl 2016 - endgültiges Gesamtergebnis 2. Wahlgang". Retrieved 2016-12-07. 
  35. ^ "Ehrenzeichen für verdiente Mandatarinnen – Silhavy, Spindelegger, Steibl, Trunk und Van der Bellen geehrt" [Honours Earned – Silhavy, Spindelegger, Steibl, Trunk and Van der Bellen] (in German). Österreichisches Parlament. 4 May 2004. Retrieved 18 December 2008. 
  36. ^ "Bundeskanzler Anfragebeantwortung an die Präsidentin des Nationalrats Barbara PRAMMER schriftliche parlamentarische Anfrage betreffend Orden und Ehrenzeichen" [Federal Chancellor's Reply to National Council President Barbara PRAMMER Regarding a Written Parliamentary Question Concerning Orders and Honours] (PDF) (in German). Österreichisches Parlament. 23 April 2012. p. 1644. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  37. ^ Luxarazzi

External links

  • Media related to Alexander Van der Bellen at Wikimedia Commons
  • Quotations related to Alexander Van der Bellen at Wikiquote
  • Literature from and about Alexander Van der Bellen in the catalog of the German National Library
  • Posts from and with Alexander van der Bellen in the online archive of the Österreichische Mediathek
  • Biography of Van der Bellen in the Austria-Forum
  • Alexander van der Bellen on the website of the Austrian Parliament
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