Saturday, November 01, 2008

Austrian Parliament elects right wing President

The new Austrian Parliament today elected FPÖ deputy Martin Graf, a member of a student combat fraternity, as third president of parliament in its first meeting since the general election.

The Greens and Freedom Party (FPÖ) challenged each other in heated debate prior to the vote about Graf’s membership in student fraternity "Olympia," considered to be extremely- right-wing by the Archive of the Austrian Resistance (DÖW).

The Greens nominated former party leader Alexander Van der Bellen as a rival candidate for the post but, in the end, Graf was elected by a majority. Graf, a lawyer and current head of Vienna lower-league football club FC Hellas Kagran, received 109 of the 156 votes, while only 27 MPs voted for Van der Bellen, who stepped down as Greens leader after the party’s disappointing results in the 28 September general election. Twenty members of parliament voted for other candidates.

The Greens claim Graf’s election did not come about as the result of an obligatorily secret vote since 34 ballots had Graf’s name in the lower left-hand corner – the FPÖ has 34 seats in parliament after its landslide gains in the general election.

ÖVP Second President of Parliament Michael Spindelegger dismissed the Greens’ accusation, explaining that it was irrelevant where a candidate’s name appeared on a ballot. What mattered was that the ballot did not have any additional remarks, Spindelegger said.

The Greens expressed their disagreement with the procedure by holding up a poster saying: "Ihr habt aus der Geschichte nichts gelernt" (You have learned nothing from history), while a handful of teenagers was removed from the public-viewing area after loudly demonstrating against Graf’s election.

Earlier in the day, the SPÖ’s Barbara Prammer was confirmed in her position as parliament’s first president. Prammer, head of the federal SPÖ women’s organisation, received 140 of 182 votes cast by parliament’s 183 members.

Michael Spindelegger of the conservative ÖVP was re-elected second president of parliament, receiving 142 of 170 votes. (Austrian Times)


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