Austria may elect Europe’s only far-right president Sunday – USA TODAY

8 months ago Comments Off on Austria may elect Europe’s only far-right president Sunday – USA TODAY

Austrians on Sunday may elect the European Union’s only¬†far-right leader, an outcome¬†that would¬†reflect a growing backlash over the recent flood of migrants entering Europe and rise of¬†populist parties across the continent.

Recent polls¬†indicate that¬†Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer, 45, has a strong chance of defeating Green Party-backed¬†Alexander Van der Bellen,¬†72, to win Austria’s presidency.

Hofer, an aviation engineer who has carried his Glock handgun on the campaign trail, won 35% of the vote in the first round last month. Ex-economics professor and refugee descendant Van der Bellen received 21%. The outcome, a stunning defeat for the centrist parties accustomed to running Austria, prompted Chancellor Werner Faymann to resign.

While the presidency is a¬†largely ceremonial post¬†that does not¬†directly affect government policy, Sunday’s¬†winner will occupy a position that¬†has been dominated by Austria’s two mainstream parties since World War II: the center-right¬†People‚Äôs Party and¬†center-left¬†Social Democratic Party.¬†With general elections expected before¬†2018, A Hofer victory could boost his Freedom Party’s influence in Austria¬†and¬†encourage other European¬†far-right political movements.

“It’s possible that he would change the political atmosphere here and his supporters would feel they could demand tougher anti-immigration rules and policies that might help the Freedom Party gain votes at the next parliamentary elections,” said¬†Heinz G√§rtner, a politics professor at the University of Vienna. “In the long run Austria¬†would probably¬†be seen as a right-wing¬†populist country and that might send¬†a clear signal to similar¬†voters and parties all across¬†Europe” that such views are acceptable, he said.

Anti-immigrant and stridently nationalistic parties have swept the continent recently. The far-right National Front led by Marine Le Pen has established itself as a major political force in France.

The¬†Conservative Law and Justice party cast aside nearly a decade of centrist rule in Poland by appealing to the instincts of those who resent Europe’s¬†biggest wave of migrants since World War II, most of them Muslims fleeing war and poverty.

In March, Germany’s EU-skeptic¬†Alternative for Deutschland party made strong gains in elections that marked¬†a repudiation of¬†Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy for migrants. Slovakia installed a right-wing government the same month.

Nationalist parties strongly opposed to the EU and liberal migration policies also are active in Denmark, Finland, Hungary and the Netherlands.

Austria received¬†90,000 asylum applications last year, but the¬†government has dramatically shifted from a policy of open borders to one of the EU‚Äôs most restrictive asylum¬†regimes amid domestic discontent over the new arrivals.¬†Hofer, who¬†vows¬†to further strengthen the nation’s¬†borders and migration controls,¬†has run a slick¬†campaign that obscured¬†his party’s¬†Nazi roots and struck a chord with voters who feel their concerns are not being heard.

“I think both candidates¬†love Austria and want the best for our country, so I really don’t want to say who is better,” said Marco Wagner, 27, a comedian who lives in Graz, Austria’s second-largest city.

“Austria is going through a difficult period, we need jobs for our people. …¬†¬†We also need jobs for the refugees,” he said.

Arnold Kammel, director of the Austrian Institute for European Policy and Security in¬†Vienna,¬†said:¬†“What we are seeing in Austria is similar to what is going on around the world, and that is the rise of anti-establishment movements.¬†People are fed up and disappointed with traditional politics and are looking for alternatives.”

Kammel¬†acknowledged¬†that Hofer’s rise¬†displays¬†parallels to the ascendance in the United States of Republican presidential candidate¬†Donald Trump, who has challenged the party’s establishment, but said the similarities may end there.¬†“Hofer¬†is not a typical Freedom Party politician. He’s known for being¬†calm, modest, not an outspoken critic, not a Trump,” he said.

G√§rtner, from the University of Vienna, said¬†Van der Bellen¬†is probably viewed as more experienced and trustworthy than¬†Hofer but lacks his rival’s charisma.

That may explain why Sabrina Watzenegger, 36, who works as a cleaner at a guesthouse in the western Austrian city of¬†G√∂tzis, said she would vote for Hofer even though she¬†supports¬†efforts to integrate refugees and has forged¬†close bonds with some of them. “Hofner can help solve our problems,” she¬†said.

Austria may elect Europe’s only far-right president Sunday – USA TODAY

Related Posts

Japan ‘babe in the woods’ boy leaves hospital

8 months ago
A Japanese boy missing for nearly a week after being abandoned in a forest by his parents for being naughty is released from a hospital. Rough cut (no reporter... Read More

UBS considers acquisitions to expand wealth management in Europe – Reuters

11 months ago
ZURICH UBS may consider making acquisitions to boost its European wealth management business to take market share from rivals, its private banking head for Europe told Reuters. “There are... Read More

Three Days, 700 Deaths on Mediterranean as Migrant Crisis Flares – New York Times

8 months ago
To save articles or get newsletters, alerts or recommendations ‚Äď all free. Don’t have an account yet?Create an account ¬Ľ Subscribed through iTunes and need an account?Learn more... Read More

Europe ends under pressure on commodities; Air France up 10.7% – CNBC

11 months ago
British defence firm BAE Systems said that it expects its earnings per share to grow up to 10 percent in 2016 from the 2015 level of 36.6 pence, sending... Read More
Real Time Web Analytics