Austria’s far-right Freedom party running on an anti-immigration platform picked up over 35% of the vote in Sunday’s poll, far more than any other candidate.
The two main parties, the center-right People’s party (ÖVP) and center-left Social Democratic party (SPÖ) picked up a mere 11% each. ÖVP and SPÖ are shut out of the election for the first time since 1945.
The Financial Times reports Far-Right Freedom Party Wins First Round of Austria’s Presidential Poll.
Austria’s far-right Freedom party won an unexpectedly powerful victory in the first round of the country’s presidential election, highlighting the potential for Europe’s refugee crisis to send shockwaves across the continent.
FPÖ candidate Norbert Hofer won more than 35 per cent of the vote in Sunday’s poll — far more than any other candidate — with most of the vote counted. He had campaigned on a nationalistic platform of strict limits on immigration, tough rules for asylum seekers and the break-up of the two-party system that has dominated Austrian politics since the second world war.
The election of a Freedom party candidate in the final election round on May 22 could trigger a political crisis in Vienna, especially if Mr Hofer tried to obstruct or even dismiss the government, led by social democratic chancellor Werner Faymann.
In next year’s French presidential elections, National Front leader Marine Le Pen is expected to push socialist incumbent François Hollande out of the race. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right bloc has lost support to the rightwing Alternative for Germany (AfD).
Following Sunday’s poll, opponents of the FPÖ are likely to coalesce around his opponent in the May 22 poll. That will be the Greens’ Alexander Van der Bellen, who won 21 per cent of the vote. Irmgard Griss, an Austrian judge who ran as an independent, was third with 19 per cent.
Speaking at his final campaign rally in Vienna on Friday, the FPÖ’s Mr Hofer stressed Austria’s limited capacity to absorb newcomers, saying “we are not the world’s social department”.
He sharply criticised, too, concessions Ms Merkel had made to Turkey in an attempt to resolve the crisis and said Islam could not become part of Austrian culture. Mr Hofer also called into question the west’s economic sanctions against Russia.
At a minimum, a plurality is totally fed up with the problems Merkel’s open arms refugee proposal has caused. More likely, a majority of citizens are fed up, it just has not translated into a majority of votes for fringe parties.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock