As the fourth round of the presidential elections draws near, I have very few illusions left about anything going well this year. Brexit happened. Trump happened. My adopted country of New Zealand just went through a horrific earthquake. Countless amazing artists have passed away this year. That summary doesn't even scrape the surface yet. This year has, in so many ways, been unequivocably shit from start to... well, we've still got 6 weeks left in the year, so who knows what it still holds in store for us.
And so, given the incredibly close margin of the first election round, I have few hopes, to be honest. The cynical part of me is convinced that in light of recent events - in light of the fact that it's now acceptable to throw in the towel and ragequit on the EU like a spoiled toddler, in light of the fact that the most powerful nation in the world has just rendered it chic to elect a populist, misogynist, racist, neo-fascist, narcissistic, choleric pathological liar as their president - Austria will avoid eye contact and follow suit. The cynical part of me is well convinced that this time, that close to 50/50 margin will tip the other way, and perhaps not so closely.
And yet, I don't want to give in to that cynicism entirely. Because Austria is still my country in many ways, will always be the place I grew up in, will always be the place that taught me to love mountains and the underdog and its very specific brand of irreverent humour. I still love that country, and I still desperately want it to surprise me in this 4th election round. I want it to consider the precedents this frankly horrible year has set, and I would like it to make a face at those trends and engage in some very trademark cunning Austrian obstreperousness. I would like its people to look at what has happened this year and decide that nope, we are NOT going to go with that trend and we are NOT down with that bullshit. I would like them to disavow the hate-driven brand of politics, the fear-mongering and the simplistic populist dogma. I want Austria's people to be smarter than that, and I know they can be. I want them to go, scrappily and determinedly, against the tide. I want them to embrace compassion and intelligence and open-mindedness and calm reason in the face of this utter flood of terrifying hate-mongering bullcrap that has defined so much of major politics this year. I want my country to be smart and to go forward, not to get mired in the swamp of nationalist pseudo-fascist rhetoric. Not to go backwards. I want to believe that we can do better. We're a small country and it wouldn't make much difference but frankly, this year every tiny step forward counts as a fucking mile, because it feels like we're moving in quicksand while on fire.
So, please, Austria. Surprise me. Be the wily, smirking, stubborn, scrappy dark horse I know you can be.
Basically, be this guy.
...unless you can be Conchita, of course. In that case, always be Conchita.