Austria’s far-right stokes fears in wealthy countryside
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.