Third Time’s a Charm: Austria Votes in 9 videos

The end is near.

Tomorrow, for the third time, Austria casts it vote for President.

Our election was a piece of cake compared to US-presidential one, 11 months of Wahlkampf (campaigning) was the longest (and maybe the most exhausting) race in Austria history  since WWII. It felt like an eternity: The campaign-posters, the candidates’ cat-fights broadcast what seemed like every week, the outcries and outlandish accusations…

And yet, even though it only feels like a small sibling of the American election, the atmosphere here in Vienna seems nearly as laden with emotion – to a degree that is highly unusual for the Austrian political landscape. In a final push in the weeks leading up to election-Sunday, people on both sides have taken to the streets, volunteering or rallying for their candidate in a last attempt to swing voters. Many dread the thought of the other candidate winning and are getting very creative in devising ways to counteract the “wrong” outcome.

While the Freedom Party has used public appearances, TV debates and it’s own FPÖ-TV, a video station the party as  published online and spread through social media, the other side has been busy too. Team Van der Bellen and its supporters grabbed the nearest camera and shot a number of persuasive and touching videos.

We’ve compiled a selection of the most shared, powerful statements. So use this as inspiration to vote, or if you can’t, inspire a Austrian friend to go.  

For those who don’t speak german we’ve translated the core message of the video and you can practice your German while you wait for the results to drizzle in next week.

#1 Gertrude 

Alexander Van der Bellen, Facebook – Nov 24, 2016.

Who? An 89-year-old Holocaust survivor who talks about the similarities in rhetoric of the early Nazi-regime and the style of the FPÖ

What? A history lesson warning today’s youth about the power and the danger of (right-wing) populism; published by the VDB-team

How? A clear and very simple video doing well without gimmicks – so clear that it was picked up by major outlets abroad, hitting three million views on Facebook in under a week.

Most important message: “It’s not the first time something like this has happened … I am afraid of that.” and “The people stood and watched while the Jews had to clean the streets. The Viennese people were standing, men and women, watching and laughing. They try to bring that out of the people again.”

#2 I am from Austria

Alexander Van der Bellen, Facebook – Nov 28, 2016.

Who? The VDB-campaign featuring Reinhard Fendrich, one of the country’s beloved Austro-Pop-stars, and his unofficial Austrian anthem “I am from Austria.”

What? An image-video by the VDB campaign that feels like a crossing between the generic formula for an US-TV ad for a presidential candidate and Joseph Vilsmaier’s successful documentary Österreich von Oben

How? Showing nearly romanticized daily scenes in the countryside as well as in the city, creating a warm feeling of a united Austria under VDB

Most important message: Austria under VDB is a country of love and happiness and a Heimat (Homeland) for every citizen.

#3 Michael

Alexander Van der Bellen, Facebook – Dec 1, 2016.

Who? Michael, a 21 year-old VDB-convert who voted for Hofer in last two rounds

What?  A 20-something’s view on politics; calmly explaining what he has changed his mind and why he thinks that VDB is the better choice for the country’s future, domestically speaking and within Europe

How? Playing with stark contrasts: After all, Michael looks like the perfect Hofer voter. They also created a very home-made feel, giving a very authentic and honest touch to the video.

Most important message: “I want to motivate young people to vote for Herr Van der Bellen.” and “I’m voting for Van der Bellen because it is important to me that peace in Europe is maintained and that Europe gets closer together.”  and “When it comes to peace, we should just not be supporting nationalists.”

#4 Endorsing Norbert Hofer

Faschisti Rassisti, YouTube – Nov 27, 2016.

Who? Faschisti Rassisti, a channel on YouTube

What? A satire inspired by on the style of Trump-ads and more importantly by a Saturday Night Life-feature mocking them; comes along as a rather high-quality production, making it ever more powerful.

How? Having “the real Austrians” stand in front of the camera: those who wear a Hitler-moustache, a swastika-sling, or those building a border fence – explaining why you should vote for Hofer. Vice calls it “the satire this election finale deserves”.

Most important statement: “Why I support Hofer? Truth, liberty, Heimatliebe” , uttered in Nazi-style-rhetoric – alluding to the three values the FPÖ campaigns with. and “… to make Austria great again”. Sarcastic and scary.


#5 Seiler und Speer

Christopher Seiler, Facebook – Nov 28, 2016.

Who? Christopher Seiler, an Austrian comedian known for the Seiler & Speer song Ham Kummst (which hit the local charts two years ago). He shared it on his Facebook page.

What? Provoked on Facebook and harassed into giving a recommendation for the upcoming election, a quite outraged Seiler digresses from the initial statement by his provoker, discussing in an impromptu style why he thinks it wrong that artists are told not be political; viewed nearly 900,000 times on Facebook.

How?  He states in VERY strong words why he’s not going to make his opinion public. He points out the orthographical problems of the initial statement and he slips into shaming the “other side” – or at least his provoker.

Most important statement: “It’s not right that artists are told not to state their opinion … We’ve been at this point when people were excluded from having a political opinion. But then, we hadn’t been born yet, thank God”


#6 Karl Michael

Karl Michael, Facebook – Nov 24, 2016.

Who? Karl Michael, a Viennese fashion designer on his Facebook page

What? An enthusiastic statement speaking out for Van der Bellen. Karl Michael has gotten just as much of a shit-storm as of a candy-storm for this.

How? A well-framed 1.30 min, speaking to his age-group. Well-said, clear, emotional.

Most important statement: “I don’t suddenly want to wake up saying ‘Fuck, why didn’t I do something?’… I don’t want to live in a country that is making the same stupid mistake a century later.” and “Sympathy yes or no, that’s not the point. … The point is – do you want to be excluded?” and “Please go vote. … And please, make a decision for humanity”


#7 Bussi: Omas, part 2

Bussi, Facebook – Dec 2, 2016.

Who? Grannies from the Bussi-campaign

What? The Omis the Bussi-people talked to are – looks-wise – the emitome of the conservative and obnoxious granny who you would expect to have racist tendencies. What they really do is telling you to vote for Van der Bellen.

How? Not by belittling but by proving that they are in the know about today’s means of communication. Alluding to the echo-chamber-dangers of Facebook and the likes, they are the perfect fit for the Bussi-campaign. Very relatable.

Most important statement: “Today’s youth is just too busy with Facebook and Twitter and whatever they may call all of this stuff. Everyone can post and everyone will believe it” and “You need to tell the others they should not believe him …” and “I would vote for Van der Bellen … I don’t really like him either, he’s just this wiseacre, but …”


#8 Eyes don’t lie

Augen lügen nicht, Facebook – Nov 28, 2016.

Who? A little boy with a little bit of a foreign accent in his German

What? 22 seconds – and all you can see is his eyes, listening to his voice. It’s part of a bigger picture – Augen lügen nicht (Eyes don’t lie), promoting integration and tolerance

How? Plain. Very plain: Studio-shot, focus on this little boys brown eyes and his Beatle-haircut. Devoid of politics, just a kid. Try not to be touched by it.

Most important statement: “Gemeinsam spielen, das ist schön.” – “Playing together, that’s beautiful.”


#9 Better together

Wiener Portraits, Facebook – Nov 27, 2016.

And then, there is the joyful dance video by Mariam Al-Ayash that works completely without any political rhetoric – and instead just makes a political statement. Going all around the world – Singapore, London, Peru, … – she has people dance together.

Looking back to a year where all we talked about was the split in society, her approach is a treat – and just as relevant. It’s a video that gives hope – whether this never-ending campaign was the final rising of the annus horribilis et insolitus 2016 or not.

There are no more words needed for this – just watch it.

Catherine Lankes
Catherine Lankes is an Austrian freelance journalist with a tilt towards the international sphere. After having studied Translation Studies in Vienna and in Paris, she is now taking a peek into the world of diplomacy with a Master’s Degree in International Studies from the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. Her interests include classical ballet and riding her motorbike.

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