Austrian presidential election too close to call

Last month we talked about the first round of presidential elections in Austria, where the established order was completely overturned as Chancellor Werner Faymann’s Social Democrats (SPOe) and their partners in the People’s Party (OeVP) were unceremoniously booted from contention. Going into the final round of balloting were Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party and Alexander Van der Bellen. Hofer was running against the influx of migrants and for the preservation of Austria’s traditional culture, while Van der Bellen ran for the Greens. (Pretty much the same as the Greens we have here in the United States.)

The final election rolled out this weekend, but we’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out which way the Austrian people chose to go because the race is a dead heat. (BBC)

The far-right and independent candidates in Austria’s presidential run-off face a dead heat, a public TV projection suggests. Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party and Alexander Van der Bellen are each on 50%, according to the estimate, which includes postal votes not yet counted.

Official figures from Sunday’s ballot give Mr Hofer a lead of 3.8% but do not include postal voting.

The final official results will not be known until Monday.

For the first time since World War Two, both the main centrist parties were knocked out in the first round. A key issue in the campaign was Europe’s migrant crisis, which has seen asylum-seeker numbers soar.

The Austrian Interior Ministry put out a release which has Hofer in the lead with 51.9% to Van der Bellen’s 48.1%, but the state media has the count much closer. With the two remaining candidates essentially tied at something near 50% the final decision will apparently come down to the balance of a significant number of write-in ballots. That won’t be finished until tomorrow, but one local analyst projected that the early voting by mail would lean toward Hofer.

Various bits of local reporting indicate that there’s no way the Greens could normally have racked up this much support. More likely is that the various groups who might have traditionally favored the SPOe and the OeVP have banded together with every unlikely ally they could find in order to defeat Hofer. In some ways, when you stop to think about it, we might see this as something of a parallel to what’s been going on in the United States this year. Hofer is the outsider who is warning against the dangers of unbridled access to immigrants and the loss of border control. Other candidates are hoping to stick with the traditional establishment and find themselves banding together with unusual partners to defeat him.

Sound like anybody you know?


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David Strom 5:21 PM on March 31, 2023