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Thomas Klestil

Thomas Klestil
Thomas Klestil
Became President:July 8, 1992
Predecessor:Kurt Waldheim
Date of Birth:November 4, 1932
Place of Birth:Vienna
Political Party:Austrian People's Party

Thomas Klestil (born November 4, 1932) is an Austrian diplomat and politician. He has been Federal President (Bundespräsident) of Austria since 1992 (56.9 % of the popular vote; re-election 1998). His second -- and final -- term of office ends on July 8, 2004.

Born in Vienna into a working class family -- his father worked for the tramway -- , Klestil went to school in Landstraße where he made friends with Joe Zawinul. He studied economics in Vienna and received his doctorate in 1957. After entering the civil service he worked in Austria as well as abroad, for example for OECD. Prior to his election as President, Klestil was the Austrian Ambassador to the United Nations (1978 - 1982) and Ambassador to the United States (1982 - 1987).

After being nominated by the conservative Austrian People's Party to run for Federal President, he succeeded Kurt Waldheim on July 8, 1992. However, in the course of his two terms of office, Klestil's alienation from his own party became increasingly obvious, so much so that there was open antagonism between Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and Klestil when, in 2000, the latter had to swear in the newly formed coalition government with Jörg Haider's Austrian Freedom Party. Klestil, who during his election campaign had vowed to be an "active" president, has repeatedly criticized the Austrian government and, in an interview with a Swiss daily given in 2003, stated that, theoretically speaking, it was in his power to dismiss the government any time he found it necessary to do so. As a matter of fact the Austrian Constitution does give far-reaching powers to the Federal President, but these have never been exercised by any of Klestil's predecessors.

Thomas Klestil, who has three grown-up children by his first marriage, divorced his wife of many years shortly after his successful election campaign of 1992 and subsequently, in 1998, married work colleague Margot Klestil-Löffler, the woman he allegedly was already having an affair with at the time of his election. In 1996 he was taken seriously ill but has recovered since.

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