Austria holds its breath as exit polls show far-Right candidate Norbert Hofer leads by the narrowest of margins – Telegraph.co.uk

8 months ago Comments Off on Austria holds its breath as exit polls show far-Right candidate Norbert Hofer leads by the narrowest of margins – Telegraph.co.uk

 

Austria’s presidential election has been left poised on a knife-edge after initial exit polls showed far-Right candidate Norbert Hofer leading by the narrowest of margins as polls closed on Sunday evening.

Exit polls from Austria’s state broadcaster showed Mr Hofer, the far-Right Freedom Party (FPO) candidate who comfortably won last month’s first round vote, on just 50.2 per cent.

The result will be a disappointment for Mr Hofer, a 45-year-old aviation engineer who is threatening to become the first far-Right head of state in the history of the EU, a result that could send political shockwaves through Europe.

His tally was less than half a per cent ahead of his opponent Alexander Van der Bellen, a 72-year-old retired political science professor and Green Party politician who ran as an independent.

Mr Van der bellen scored only 22 per cent in the first round, comfortably behind Mr Hofer’s 35 per cent, but looks to have taken advantage of tactical voting among establishment and liberal Austrians determined to stop a far-Right presidency.

Election analysts said the final outcome would be decided in the cities of Vienna and Salzburg which are likely to favour Mr Van der Bellen over Mr Hofer, whose anti-immigrant, anti-austerity platform appeals Austria’s small towns and villages.

“It will come down to Vienna. If Van der Bellen polls more than 60 per cent in Vienna he will win, if not – it’s Hofer,” Peter Hajek, a prominent Vienna-based pollster, told The Telegraph in Vienna. In official counting, as polls closed at 5pm local time, 75 per cent of votes had been counted, showing 52.6 per cent for Hofer and 47.4 for Van der Bellen. 

The exit polls contained ‘projections’ for uncounted votes in the cities and among 700,000 postal votes, but analysts warned there was significant room for error in those numbers.

Senior European officials, including Martin Schulz, the socialist president of the European Parliament, have issued warnings that “Europe’s character will be changed” if the Freedom Party wins the largely ceremonial office.

Austria holds its breath as exit polls show far-Right candidate Norbert Hofer leads by the narrowest of margins – Telegraph.co.uk