Austria presidential vote: Hofer leads but results too close to call – BBC News

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Norbert Hofer (left) and Alexander Van der Bellen vote, 21 May (composite image)Image copyright

Image caption

Norbert Hofer (left) is up against Alexander Van der Bellen, who has the support of the Greens

The far-right candidate in Austria’s presidential run-off is marginally ahead, exit polls suggest, but the race is still too close to call.

Two different exit polls give Norbert Hofer a wafer-thin lead over independent candidate Alexander Van deer Belen.

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.

About 90,000 people claimed asylum in Austria last year, equivalent to about 1% of the Austrian population, and the Freedom Party ran an anti-immigration campaign.

The presidency is a largely ceremonial post, but a Hofer victory could be the springboard for Freedom Party success in the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2018.

Europe will be watching: Bethany Bell, BBC News, Vienna

Austria is faced with a stark choice for its head of state: a Green Party professor, Alexander Van der Bellen, or Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party – a soft-spoken, charismatic gun enthusiast who won a decisive victory in the first round of voting in April.

For the first time since the Second World War, the traditional parties of the centre left and centre right were knocked out of the race.

Support for the Freedom Party has risen because of deep frustration with the established parties and, more recently, because of fears about the migrant crisis.

Right-wing parties are gaining strength in a number of EU countries. European leaders will be watching the result closely.

Read more from Bethany

Is Europe lurching to the far right?

Europe’s nationalist surge, country by country

An Austrian public TV exit poll gave Mr Hofer 50.2% of the vote and 49.8% to Mr van der Bellen, with a margin of error of two percentage points.

Another exit poll quoted by Die Presse daily gave the Freedom Party candidate 50.9% to 49.1% for the independent. The margin of error for that poll was unclear.

Austria presidential vote: Hofer leads but results too close to call – BBC News