Austrian far-right party wins first round of presidential vote
Austria’s far right won more than a third of the vote in the presidential election on Sunday and will face an independent in next month’s run-off, dumping out the country’s two main parties from the post for the first time.
It was the Freedom Party’s best result in a national election after a campaign that focused on the impact of the migrant crisis, which has seen around 100,000 asylum seekers arrive in Austria since last summer.
Norbert Hofer, who ran on an anti-immigrant and anti-Europe platform, won 36.4 percent of the vote to become head of state. He will face Alexander van der Bellen, a former Green Party figurehead, who won 20.4 percent, according to official preliminary results.
The fact that neither of the main ruling parties will be battling for the post on May 22 marks a major change in Austrian politics – as well as the rising role of the far right in Europe.
Around 70 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots, a big turnout compared with around 50 percent six years ago when Social Democrat Heinz Fischer, now 77, was elected for his second term. Political analyst Peter Filzmaier observed that: “Only those who are satisfied vote for a government party or its candidate. This time, the annoyed voted for Norbert Hofer.”
Showing the far right’s growing confidence in Europe, Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, hailed a “beautiful result”, writing on Twitter: “Bravo to the Austrian people”.
Both the candidates that made it through to the run-off had taken aim at the government over its handling of the migrant crisis. Van der Bellen criticised the government for being too harsh in its treatment of asylum applicants, while Hofer says it has been too soft.
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