A descendant of the Habsburgs is taking Austria to the European Court for Human Rights for not allowing him to run for president, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Ulrich Habsburg-Lothringen could not become a candidate in April 25 elections because he lacked the required number of signatures and Austrian law bars members of all ruling or former ruling families from running for the largely ceremonial post.
The Habsburg dynasty was once Europe's most influential royal house and held power from the 13th to the early 20th centuries.
The ban - which only applies to the presidency and is enshrined in the constitution - dates back to 1919 when Austria became a republic after centuries of monarchic rule. It was meant to quash any aspirations to reclaim the throne by members of the former royal family.
The complaint filed with the Strasbourg-based court argues that the ban violates Habsburg-Lothringen's human right to participate in democratic elections, said his lawyer, Rudolf Vouk.
Dr. Habsburg-Lothringen seems like a decent enough fellow on his own website; while there is plenty of blue blood in his veins it seems as though such money as he has is the result of what in America we would call a "small business" as a tree farmer, supplemented with work as a civil engineer and a raw materials purchasing agent for a paper plant. His politics look to be well within the spectrum of socially-acceptable opinions of his nation, and he even has a blog! It's no more or less crankier than anyone else's; he's annoyed that the accident of his parentage excludes him from running for a particular office.
In America, we have both a ban on hereditary titles or grants of nobility, and a ban on laws that work a corruption of blood. These both seem like eminently fair and reasonable policies for all countries in this modern era of self-government. It's not Dr. Habsburg's fault that his ancestors were nobility. He is a citizen of his nation, he pays his taxes, he seems to have broken no laws. Maybe it's none of my business because I'm not Austrian, but if I were, I'd say, if he is otherwise eligible to run for President of his country, let him stand along with with his peers and solicit the approval of his fellow-citizens.
Since he can't even gather 6,000 signatures to be otherwise eligible to run, I don't think there's much danger that a Habsburg will actually be President of Austria anyway.
Hat tip to Robert Farley.