Marco Pogo: Beer Party founder raises a glass to coming third in Austria's presidential election

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By Vincent Coste  & Aleksandar Brezar
Dominik Wlazny, better known as Marco Pogo
Dominik Wlazny, better known as Marco Pogo   -   Copyright  Credit: Euronews   -  

For the past few weeks, Marco Pogo, the founder of the Beer Party, has been revelling in a sudden rise in popularity in Austria amid unprecedented media interest. 

The reason? He came third in the presidential election on 9 October. 

A result is all the more impressive in Vienna, where Dominik Wlazny -- that is his real name -- came second. 

The 10.7% of votes he received in his hometown, however, were not enough for him to unseat the re-elected incumbent, Alexander Van der Bellen.

At 35 years and 10 months, Wlazny also became the youngest-ever candidate to run for president in the Alpine country. According to Austrian law, citizens under 35 years of age cannot run for that office.

The punk rocker received Euronews in his headquarters in the 11th district of the Austrian capital, between an interview with a German outlet and a live broadcast on an Austrian radio station, to talk more about his campaign and the result. 

"I am atypical. I am not a normal politician, nor do I want to be," he said by way of introduction. 

"I spoke directly to young people about issues that concern me -- I am also young," Wlazny told Euronews. 

"It's about the future, it's about climate protection, it's about solidarity. These are the themes that interest young people."

'Ministry of Future-Oriented Ideas'

During its campaign in the run-up to the October election, the Beer Party relied on one of the great principles of punk: do it yourself, or DIY. 

Despite his party's limited resources, the man whose stage name is a play on words combining Marco Polo and a dance where the aim is to "mess everything up" is obviously happy. 

"I am extremely satisfied with the result. We have a very small team compared to other parties. The budget for this election campaign was very small. I was only able to put up nine large posters in the whole of Vienna," Wlazny explained.

"But I could make videos to spread my ideas all over the world. And the result is extremely good. I don't have a parliamentary party behind me either, we are doing all this on our own. And that's a good thing," he said.

But Wlazny is not only a politician -- he is, above all, an artist, a musician.

He founded the Bier Partei in 2015 mainly as satire. But, while continuing to "have fun," Dr Dominik Wlazny -- he is also a medical doctor -- has come to the spotlight in Vienna by arguing for the protection of alternative cultural venues and minorities and other vulnerable groups. 

In his presidential programme, the punk musician put forward the idea of a ministry that would identify "future-oriented ideas" and anticipate issues before they happen. 

But of course, Wlazny is a great beer lover, as the name of his band TurboBier indicates. 

This is what he also named his own brew, which he believes to be the best.  

"Whether in beer or in politics, new ideas must be heard. And it is only through novelty and fresh influences that something good can be born," Wlazny said. 

"And from this point of view, I see my candidacy as an incentive to for the country to think about."

"If the issues I have addressed are now more widely discussed, then I will have succeeded in everything," he stated. 

'Austria is not an island'

Right-wing candidates, even far-right ones, were very present in this election won by the incumbent president. 

Van der Bellen was supported by a broad range of the country's major political groups, including the social democrats of the SPÖ and ÖVP's conservatives. 

The candidate of the populist FPÖ, or Freedom Party, came second in the election. 

But the Austrian far-right party has lost some of its influence since the 2019 Ibiza-gate, which forced the resignation of Heinz-Christian Strache, then vice-chancellor. 

Wlazny, on the other hand, stands for an Austria that is open to the world, far from the nationalist demands of FPÖ.   

"Austria is not an island. We are not somewhere in the South Seas, where people could say 'we don't need others.'" 

"I think that this international idea of Europe, (of us) working together with our neighbours, that's how we can solve these crises. You can't solve them with basic populist ideas," Wlazny said. 

While Wlazny and his fellow Bier Partei members are obviously delighted with more than 300,000 votes cast in his favour, there is the question of what comes next. Will the Bier Partei take root in Austrian politics? 

"The next election in Austria is in two years. So there is a lot of room for manoeuvre in terms of what could still happen." 

"The Bier Partei's reception has been great. We are constantly gaining new members. The party will continue to do its work in Vienna, in the districts where we have seats, like I do in (Wlazny's Vienna district of) Simmering. It is a pleasure, and I will continue to do so," he confided.

"And in the meantime, I'll see how it evolves. How many people want to participate, the right people, because this is my baby. I want to find like-minded people."

"Now, when I see the number of young people coming down the street and saying 'Hey, great, finally someone I can relate to,' yeah, I'm very happy."