Heinz Fischer GColIH OMRI RSerafO GCollSE (German pronunciation: [haɪnts ˈfɪʃɐ] (listen); born 9 October 1938) is a former Austrian politician. He took office as President of Austria on 8 July 2004 and was re-elected for a second and last term on 25 April 2010, leaving office on 8 July 2016. 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.
|President of Austria|
8 July 2004 – 8 July 2016
|Preceded by||Thomas Klestil|
|Succeeded by||Alexander Van der Bellen|
|Second President of the National Council|
20 December 2002 – 16 June 2004
|Preceded by||Thomas Prinzhorn|
|Succeeded by||Barbara Prammer|
|President of the National Council|
5 November 1990 – 20 December 2002
|Preceded by||Rudolf Pöder|
|Succeeded by||Andreas Khol|
|Minister of Science and Research|
24 May 1983 – 21 January 1987
|Preceded by||Hertha Firnberg|
|Succeeded by||Hans Tuppy|
|Born||9 October 1938|
Graz, Reichsgau Steiermark, State of Austria, German Reich
(now Graz, Styria, Austria)
|Political party||Social Democratic Party (before 2004; 2016–present)|
|Alma mater||University of Vienna (PhD)|
|Awards||Order of Merit of the Italian Republic |
Order of Prince Henry
Royal Order of the Seraphim
Military Order of Saint James of the Sword
Fischer was born in Graz, Styria, which had recently become part of Nazi Germany, following Germany’s annexation of Austria in March 1938. Fischer attended a grammar school which focused on humanities and graduated 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 1994.
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 presidentEdit
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.
Second term as presidentEdit
In April 2010, Fischer was re-elected president of Austria, winning a second six-year term in office with almost 79% of the votes. The voter turnout of merely 53.6% was a record low. 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 behind the low turnout may have been that pollsters had predicted a safe victory for Fischer (past Austrian presidents running for a second term had 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. Prominent ÖVP members, unofficially but in public, even suggested to cast a blank vote, which 7% of the voters did.
Fischer identifies himself as agnostic and as a social democrat. He and Margit Binder married in 1968. The couple have two grown children.
Despite being members of opposing parties, Fischer was close friends with former ÖVP politician Sixtus Lanner.
He enjoys mountaineering and has been president of the Austrian Friends of Nature for many years.
Honours and awardsEdit
- 2004 Grand Star of Honour of the Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria (Austria)
- 2008 Ring of Honour of the Province of Styria
- 2008 Freedom of the City of Graz
- 2009 Florianiplakette of the Austrian Federal Fire Association in gold
- 1993 Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (Italy)
- 2005 Grand Collar of the Order of Prince Henry (Portugal)
- 2005 Grand Cross of the Order of Isabella the Catholic (Spain)
- 2006 Grand Cross of the Order of the Order of the White Rose of Finland (Finland)
- 2006 Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary (Hungary)
- 2006 Collar of the Order pro merito Melitensi (Sovereign Military Order of Malta)
- 2007 Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (Italy)
- 2007 Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav (Norway)
- 2007 Knight of the Royal Order of the Seraphim (Sweden)
- 2009 Grand Cross with Golden Chain of the Order of Vytautas the Great (Lithuania)
- 2009 Grand Collar of the Order of Saint James of the Sword (Portugal)
- 2009 Grand Collar of the Order of the White Lion (Czech Republic)
- 2012 Collar of the Order of Merit (Chile)
- 2013 Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour (France)
- 2013 Knight of the Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau (Luxembourg)
- 2014 National Flag Order (Albania)
- 2015 Grand Collar of the Order of the Condor of the Andes (Bolivia)
- 2016 Order of the Balkan Mountains (Bulgaria)
- 2008 Honorary Doctorate of Law Faculty of the University of Tel Aviv
- 2009 Honorary Doctorate from the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences
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