Austria’s presidential election was too close to call yesterday, leaving it unclear whether a eurosceptic candidate buoyed by the continent’s migration crisis would become the EU’s first far-right head of state.
A victory for Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer would be a landmark triumph for resurgent populist and anti-immigration parties across Europe that have capitalised on widespread dissatisfaction with traditional parties of power.
It would be all the more remarkable for being in a prosperous country with low unemployment, where two centrist parties have dominated since it emerged shattered from the Second World War after its annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938.
A projection by the SORA institute for broadcaster ORF showed Hofer on 49.9%. His opponent, former Greens leader Alexander van der Bellen, was on 50.1%, leaving both men well within a margin of error of 1.6 percentage points.
With more than 10% of voters having opted for absentee ballots, which will not be counted in full until today, it is possible the result will not be clear until then.
“It is a photo finish, a heart-stopping finale,” said van der Bellen’s campaign manager, Lothar Lockl .
“In soccer, you would say that this game is going into extra time,” he said of the run-off election, which is shaping up to be the closest since the aftermath of World War Two.
Support for groups like the eurosceptic, anti-immigration Freedom Party has been rising in various countries, whether they have taken in many migrants in the recent influx, like Germany and Sweden, or not, like France and Britain.
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