Aus­tria’s far-right stokes fears in wealthy coun­try­side

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

PINKAFELD, Aus­tria: Ask the peo­ple of Pinkafeld what makes them proud of their pas­tel-col­ored town set amid pine-strewn hills and many will re­ply “Our flow­ers”, fol­lowed by “...and our Nor­bert”. Pros­per­ous, pretty and al­most mi­grant-free-ru­ral Aus­tria para­dox­i­cally of­fers a happy hunt­ing ground for far­right pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Nor­bert Hofer and his pop­ulist Free­dom Party. Like else­where in the coun­try­side, the 45-yearold swept most of the votes in Pinkafeld in the first runoff in May, which was an­nulled over pro­ce­dural ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

Back then, he lost by a pa­per-thin mar­gin to the Greens­backed Alexan­der Van der Bellen. Now many Pinkafelders hope “Nor­bert”, as he’s af­fec­tion­ately known, will fi­nally emerge vic­to­ri­ous on De­cem­ber 4 — and not just be­cause he’s a lo­cal res­i­dent. “Hofer’s a nice guy who walks his dog around town but I think peo­ple here would sup­port him even if he wasn’t from Pinkafeld,” lo­cal newsagent Hannes Stecker told AFP. “There’s a lurch to the right in Aus­tria and Van der Bellen is too left-lean­ing. That scares peo­ple off. I’m not keen on ei­ther but be­cause some of my opin­ions are more on the right side, I vote for Hofer,” the 21-year-old said.

Other lo­cals say they are also frus­trated with the rul­ing cen­trist coali­tion, in power since 2008. “I’m so tired of the main par­ties al­ways lin­ing their pock­ets and for­get­ting about us nor­mal folk,” said a butcher in her for­ties who re­fused to be named.

PINKAFELD, Aus­tria: This file photo taken on April 24, 2016 shows the can­di­date of the far-right Free­dom Party (FPOe) Nor­bert Hofer drop­ping his bal­lot at the polling sta­tion at the first round of Aus­trian Pres­i­dent elec­tions.

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