The Slovenian minority in Austria was relieved when former president of Austrian Greens Alexander Van der Bellen won the northern neighbour's presidential election on Sunday (Photo: wikimedia)
However, representatives of minority organisations stressed that the photo finish victory was a signal that something must change in Austrian politics.
Acting president of the National Council of Carinthian Slovenians (NSKS) Nanti Olip told the STA that he was "very relieved" after Van der Bellen's victory, as the new president spent his career addressing the issue of minorities in the country.
On the other hand, the narrow win will not destroy the energy the Freedom Party (FPÖ) put into the election, he stressed. The party will try to use the momentum in the next parliamentary election that is scheduled for 2018.
Touching on the issue close to home, Olip expressed concern over the high number of votes the FPÖ's candidate Norbert Hofer won in Carinthia, where the majority of the Slovenian minority lives.
"It was made clear again that historical as well as political memory in Austrian Carinthia is very short," stressed Olip, pointing to the fact that the FPÖ's rule ran the province aground financially and damaged economically at least one generation of Carinthians.
Similarly to Olip, Ana Blatnik of the Association of Slovenian Organisations (ZSO) stressed that the election should be taken as a warning signal by Austrian politics because people went to the polls to protest.
According to her, half of the votes that went to Hofer are a consequence of uncertainty, fear of refugees and fear of unemployment. Such an atmosphere is the perfect breeding ground for manipulations and polarisations. Everybody in Austria will have to work to put that behind, Blatnik stressed.
However, she welcomed the victory of pro-European politics that prefers cooperation to segregation.
Head of the Association of Carinthian Slovenians Bernard Sadovnik also stressed that Van der Bellen's victory was a signal that Austrians want to keep the EU. He moreover believes that Sunday's result will make Austrian parties see reason and get closer to the needs of the people.
Touching on Van der Bellen's history as an advocate for minorities' rights, Sadovnik expressed expectation that he would continue in the steps of Heinz Fischer in tackling the remaining open issues of the Slovenian minority, including the only Slovenian weekly that Slovenia has to keep alive instead of Austria.
He also commented on the high support for Hofer in Carinthia, saying that he got the votes of dissatisfied people who were not necessarily extremely rightist per se. (source: STA)