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Journals from Vienna 2008

2008-10-27 Got suffrage?

Living abroad during a year when both your home and host country have elections is a rare occurrence; this is the situation our group is experiencing this year in Vienna. A few days after we arrived in Austria, it was decided that the Social Democrats and the Peoples Party had not formed a well-functioning coalition, and that the people would have the chance to elect a new Federal President, who would then hopefully form a better government. The Austrian citizenry voted on September 28th " always a Sunday, to assure that people can make it to the polling place " for the next Federal President of Austria, a position that is actually not as important as the position of Federal Chancellor. When a coalition/government is not accomplishing anything, it is possible for a vote to occur before the previously scheduled vote; in America, we are unluckily forced to wait four years (for the idealistic American teenager, not yet old enough to vote, the past eight years) or until the next scheduled November presidential election. That being asserted, the people, parties, and politicians only had 2 months to prepare for the next election. Advertisements were prepared, printed, paid for, and posted all over the city within a mere two-month period; however, this was not anything like what is put out for the American presidential elections. Each of the five main parties had a few slogans, which were posted all over the city, to attempt to attract voters for their party. The level of advertisement and political slander in this election reached a level surpassed by the American presidential candidates in the first few weeks of 2008. It likely saves the parties and people of Austria heaps of money that can be used toward important things by not throwing money into advertisements in the way that American political candidates do. It was interesting to be able to experience the election and election process of another country, but it is equally as interesting to be an American citizen abroad in such a crucial time for our country and the world. Last week after my German class, I was talking with a couple of French women, and as I have come to take as routine, one of the women asked me the following questions in the following order: What is your name? Where are you from? You have an election coming up, do you mind if I ask who you are planning to vote for? Generally, I will gladly answer the question (in a roundabout manner), as I am proud of who I am voting for, but am still taken aback by being asked such a personal question upon meeting someone as it is a question I would not even ask some of my close friends, let alone a stranger. People are also very open to share their opinion on personal political convictions here. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to study here in Austria during a politically important time for both America and Austria. On top of that, there is the current financial crisis, which I try not to think about too much; as well as the death of the beloved leader of the Austrian populist right-wing party, Jrg Haider, in a drunk-driving car accident. When all is said and done, our group has been in Austria during an interesting couple of months, which has only added to the trip. Much to my amazement and excitement, the Euro/Dollar exchange rate is currently at 1.26 dollars per 1 euro. On that note, dont forget to vote! Wow, what a ridiculous rhyme.. Ashley

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