Austria. An Alpine bulwark has fallen
BSSB.BE reuters.com 05.12.2016
Austrian voters roundly rejected on Sunday a candidate vying to become the first freely elected far-right head of state in Europe since World War Two, halting at least temporarily the wave of populism sweeping Western democracies.
President`s Elections – re-vote
Current forecast: Clear victory with 53,3% for Van der Bellen
Presidential elections were held in Austria on April 24, 2016, with a second round run-off on May 22, 2016. However, the results of the run-off were overturned by the Constitutional Court and a re-vote is taking place on Sunday, December 4.
SORA provides election night forecasts and analyses for the national TV station ORF.
Prognosis of postal vote
Postal vote will be counted starting on Monday, December 5. All SORA election night forecasts already include a prognosis of postal vote, i.e. the final result expected for Tuesday, December 6.
The runoff vote was a litmus test, since it was a re-run of a vote held in May, before Britain voted to leave the European Union and Americans elected Donald Trump as president.
Norbert Hofer of the anti-immigration Freedom Party lost the May election by less than a percentage point, and polls had for months shown the race too close to call.
- But within minutes of polls closing it was clear he had lost to former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen, who had put the June Brexit referendum at the center of his campaign, saying Hofer would lead Austria down the same road as Britain and warning voters not to “play with this fire”.
- “A red, white and red signal of hope and of positive change is being beamed from Vienna through Europe,” Van der Bellen said in a victory speech, referring to the colors on Austria’s flag. “I will be a pro-European president of Austria open to the world.”
With only postal ballots left to count, a projection by pollster SORA for broadcaster ORF showed Van der Bellen on 53.3 percent and Hofer on 46.7 percent with a margin of error of 0.4 percentage points.
Turnout was roughly a percentage point higher than in May, at 74 percent. That election had to be re-run because of irregularities in counting the votes.
The result dealt a blow to populists who had hoped anti-establishment anger had grown enough since the Brexit referendum and Trump’s triumph to sweep Hofer into office. The closely watched vote also came before elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands next year.
European governments breathed a sigh of relief at the result, as they had done after the May runoff.
“A weight has fallen from all of Europe’s shoulders,” said German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, a Social Democrat. “If the projections are confirmed, the result of the election in Austria is a clear victory for reason against right-wing populism.”
What effect the Brexit and Trump votes had on the Austrian election is not clear.
Data from SORA showed that Van der Bellen’s pro-European stance was his supporters’ second-strongest reason for voting for him, cited by 65 percent of them, just behind the view that he would best represent Austria abroad.
Among Hofer supporters, the top reason was that he “understands the concerns of people like me”, cited by 55 percent of respondents.
There is also the more distant prospect of a clash between Van der Bellen and the Freedom Party – the FPO – in the event of an FPO victory in parliamentary elections. The president plays an important role in the formation of coalitions after an election, and Van der Bellen has said he would try to prevent an FPO-led government.
“I am infinitely sad that it didn’t work out,” Hofer said on his Facebook page less than an hour after polls closed, later adding that he would run again in the presidential election in six years.
New Austrian President parties after ‘very, very, very long’ campaign
Pro-EU Van der Bellen becomes the face of Austria
He said he would now turn his attention to running for parliament in an election due by 2018. Polls suggest the FPO would win that election, since it now has the support of roughly a third of voters, well clear of its nearest rival.
“Congratulations to the FPO, which fought valiantly. The next legislative elections will show their victory!” tweeted Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front, an FPO ally who will contest the French presidential election next year.
Austria has for decades been dominated by two centrist parties that are once again in coalition, and anger at that entrenched duopoly has fueled support for the FPO, which wants to end the two parties’ grip on power.
There has been speculation about whether Chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democrats and the conservative People’s Party will manage to keep working together until their mandate expires in 2018.
“I don’t think this government will last much longer,” Hofer said.
For now Austrians will be glad to put behind them the comedy of errors that meant this election dragged on for almost a year, prompting some media to label the country a “banana republic”.
The result of the May 22 runoff was overturned mostly due to election officials cutting corners as they raced to complete the count. The re-run was then postponed because the glue on the envelopes for some postal ballots did not stick.
(Additional reporting by Michel Rose in Paris, Michael Nienaber in Berlin, Sasa Kavic and Branko Filipovic in Pinkafeld, Austria, and Shadia Nasralla and Michael Shields in Vienna; Editing by Larry King)
European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker issued a warning to Austrian presidential candidate Norbert Hofer, regarding referendums.
Hofer, an anti-immigration, candidate is in a tight race for the election coming up on December 4.
If he wins, Hofer said he would hold in-out referendums if Brussels seeks to expand it power.
Please consider European president Jean-Claude Juncker pleads with EU leaders not to hold ‘in-out’ referendums – because voters will choose to Leave.
Jean-Claude Juncker has urged EU leaders not to hold referendums on their membership of the bloc because he fears their voters will also choose to leave. The European Commission president said giving people a vote would be ‘unwise’ as they could seek to replicate Brexit.
His remarks come as one of the contenders to become Austrian president has threatened to hold a referendum if the EU integrates further.
Norbert Hofer, who will become Europe’s first far-right head of state since the Second World War if elected on Sunday, has promised a ballot if the EU becomes more centralised following Brexit.
‘Regarding referenda on EU membership, I think it is not wise to organise this kind of debate, not only because I might be concerned about the final result but because this will pile more controversy onto the huge number already present at the heart of the EU.
‘Besides, I don’t think the next president of Austria, whoever it will be, will launch themselves into this kind of escapade.
‘I have learned to tell the difference, between campaign promises and concrete policies.
Mr Juncker, who has faced blame for the Brexit vote, insisted ‘the existence of the EU is not in doubt’.
He claimed the EU’s weakness was a ‘lack of love’ rather than because of the actions of Brussels.
Lie of the Day
Juncker is a babbling, hypocritical fool, who was also sure Brexit would never happen.
Asked about the Freedom Party candidate’s pledge, Mr Juncker told Euronews: ‘We can’t deny or take away the people of Europe’s right to express their views.’