The New Austrian President Vows to Take Country out of Isolation

Austria’s president-elect, Thomas Klestil, said his first order of business after he is sworn in on July 8 will be to end the diplomatic isolation brought on his country when it elected Kurt Waldheim president in 1986 despite disclosure of his Nazi past.

Klestil, a 59-year-old career diplomat and former ambassador to the United States who was the candidate of the conservative Austrian People’s Party, won a resounding victory in Sunday’s runoff election against the Social Democratic candidate, Transport Minister Rudolph Streicher.

Klestil said his immediate plans call for visiting the European Community countries and Austria’s close neighbors — something Waldheim was unable to do in his official capacity because of the stigma attached to his wartime activities.

Another of Klestil’s early duties after moving into Hofburg Castle, the presidential mansion, will be to accredit a new Israeli ambassador.

Israel downgraded its diplomatic relations with Austria after Waldheim was elected. It is expected to restore them to the ambassadorial level as soon as he leaves office.

Runoff elections had to be held because the April 26 elections failed to give a clear mandate to any of the four candidates running. They eliminated Heide Schmidt of the right-wing Freedom Party, with about 16 percent of the vote, and Robert Jungke, a Jewish scientist who ran for the Green Alternative Party and got 5.7 percent.

Although Streicher had been favored to win in the runoffs, Klestil managed to pick up both the right-wing and the Green vote and beat him by a 57-43 percent landslide.

The race was devoid of the anti-Semitism that insinuated itself into Waldheim’s campaign six years ago after his role in a German army unit linked to atrocities was exposed by Jewish groups.

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