I know you’re all focused on the big election coming up on November 8th, but there’s another one happening much sooner which we should probably keep an eye on. As we’ve covered here before, the presidential election in Austria was thrown into turmoil earlier this year due to voting irregularities and the resurgence of a smaller political party which prevented the traditional, dominant blocks from holding on to their historical control of the country. While the first ballot was initially too close to call, Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party (FPO) was finally determined to have lost by the slimmest of margins. But those results were tossed out in July due to the aforementioned voting irregularities and the voters will take another shot at it on October 2nd. Hofer, a staunch opponent of open borders and unlimited immigration from terrorism rich lands, as well as opposing Austrian membership in the EU, has not lost any steam in the public approval race, and recent polling shows that he’s now holding on to a slim but measurable lead outside the margins. (Reuters)
The far right is ahead in Austria’s presidential race, according to opinion polls which predict a win for the anti-immigration candidate that would be a watershed for populists across Europe who have capitalized on the migration crisis.
Ahead of the Oct. 2 election, the Freedom Party’s (FPO) Norbert Hofer is just ahead of his independent rival, Alexander Van der Bellen, who narrowly beat Hofer in a previous run-off vote in May that was annulled.
Concerns about security and national identity as well as dissatisfaction with traditional, more centrist parties, have fueled support for the FPO as well as the Front National in France and the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD).
A poll of 600 people published by the Oesterreich tabloid showed the average support for Hofer at 53 percent, one point higher than a poll in late July, versus 47 percent for former Greens head Alexander Van der Bellen.
Van der Bellen, representing the Greens, is still an unlikely standard bearer for the the traditionally dominant Austrian powerhouses so his support among their normal followers is questionable at best. As for Norbert Hofer, his positions put him in some very controversial debates, always leaning toward the popular nationalist movement. If elected, he won’t be very popular with Turkey, particularly since he insisted that the Turks should not be be allowed to join the European Union if Austria is to remain a member. In fact, he’s on record as suggesting that “Auxit” could be the way to go in the wake of Brexit. His views on Islam are stirring controversy as well, with his opponents frequently citing his call earlier this month to ban the burqa.
The Austrian people have been largely put off by the migrant crisis and are no fans of Angela Merkel’s European leadership on this issue. If they’re shopping around for someone to chart an almost entirely different course, Hofer may well wind up being the president after all. It’s a largely ceremonial position (though the president can disband the legislative body) but it would be sending a strong message to the rest of the EU leadership if he’s elected.