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Heinz Fischer, GColIH (German pronunciation: [haɪnts ˈfɪʃɐ]; born 9 October 1938) is the President of Austria. He took office on 8 July 2004 and was re-elected for a second and last term on 25 April 2010. Fischer previously served as Minister of Science from 1983 to 1987 and as President of the National Council of Austria from 1990 to 2002. A member of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ), he suspended his party membership for the duration of his Presidency.
Fischer was born in Graz, Styria, in what had recently become Nazi Germany following the Anschluss of March 1938. Fischer attended the Gymnasium, focusing on humanities, and taking his Matura exams in 1956. He studied law at the University of Vienna, earning a doctorate in 1961. In 1963, at the age of 25, Fischer spent a year volunteering at Kibbutz Sarid, northern Israel. Apart from being a politician, Fischer also pursued an academic career, and became a Professor of Political Science at the University of Innsbruck in 1993.
Fischer was a member of the Austrian parliament, the National Council, from 1971, and served as its president from 1990 to 2002. From 1983 to 1987 he was Minister of Science in a coalition government headed by Fred Sinowatz.
First term as President
In January 2004 Fischer announced that he would run for President to succeed Thomas Klestil. He was elected on 25 April 2004 as the candidate of the opposition Social Democratic Party. He polled 52.4 per cent of the votes to defeat Benita Ferrero-Waldner, then Foreign Minister in the ruling conservative coalition led by the People's Party.
Fischer was sworn in on 8 July 2004 and took over office from the college of presidents of the National Council, who had acted for the President following Klestil's death on 6 July.
Apart from labelling him, in a slightly derogatory fashion, a Berufspolitiker ("professional politician") who allegedly has never been in touch with the real world, Fischer's critics, first and foremost his colleague at university, Norbert Leser, point out that Fischer has always avoided controversy and conflict, even when that would have been called for. The example frequently quoted in this context is Fischer's tacit support of Bruno Kreisky's attacks on Simon Wiesenthal. On being nominated for President, Fischer said that he hated antagonising people and that he considered this quality an asset rather than anything else.
Second term as President
In April 2010, Fischer was re-elected as President of Austria, winning a second six-year term in office with almost 79% of the votes with a record-low voter turnout of merely 53.6%. Around a third of those eligible to vote voted for Fischer, leading the conservative daily Die Presse to describe the election as an "absolute majority for non-voters". The reasons for the low turnout lay in the facts that pollsters had predicted a safe victory for Fischer (Austrian presidents running for a second term of office have always won) and that the other large party, ÖVP, had not nominated a candidate of their own, and had not endorsed any of the three candidates. Some prominent ÖVP members, unofficially, but in public, even suggested to vote 'null and void', which some 7% of the voters did.
Fischer is an agnostic. Fischer has been married since 1968. The couple has two grown children. Fischer enjoys mountaineering and has been president of the Austrian Friends of Nature for many years.
Honours and Awards
- 1993 Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
- 2004 Grand Star of Honour of the Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria
- 2005 Grand Collar of the Order of Prince Henry
- 2006 Collane of Merit Sovereign Military Order of Malta
- 2006 Grand Cross of the Order of Collane of the Order of the White Rose of Finland
- 2006 Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary
- 2007 Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav
- 2007 Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
- 2007 Order of the Seraphim
- 2008 Ring of Honour of the Province of Styria
- 2009 Florianiplakette of the Austrian Federal Fire Association in gold
- 2008 Freedom of the City of Graz
- 2008 Honorary Doctorate of Law Faculty of the University of Tel Aviv
- 2009 Honorary Doctorate from the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences
- 2009 Grand Collar of the Order of Saint James of the Sword
- 2009 Grand Cross with Golden Chain of the Order of Vytautas the Great
- 2011 The BrandLaureate Brand Personality Lifetime Achievement Award.
- Wiener Zeitung
- "Neuer alter Präsident". Bayerischer Rundfunk. 2010-04-25. http://www.br-online.de/bayerisches-fernsehen/rundschau/oesterreich-praesidentenwahl-wahl-ID1272184893984.xml?_requestid=14. Retrieved 2010-11-13.
- Austrian president vows to bring up Schalit case with Assad | Middle East
- "Austria president sweeps to victory". Al Jazeera. 25 April 2010. http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2010/04/2010425175334560120.html. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
- at www.bundespraesident.at
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