RIGHT WING SWEEPS VOTE IN FIRST ROUND
VIENNA The law-and-order candidate of Austria’s rightwing party swept the first round of presidential elections on Sunday, gathering more than 35 per cent of the vote and leaving the other five candidates far behind.
Among the losers were the hopefuls nominated by the government coalition, reflecting significant voter dissatisfaction with the country’s political status quo.
The apparent triumph by Norbert Hofer, pictured, of the Freedom Party is his party’s best-ever showing since its creation after the Second World War.
Its previous best result was more than 27 per cent in elections that decided Austria’s membership in the European Union.
Hofer’s triumph reflects recent polls showing Freedom Party popularity. Driven by concerns over Europe’s migrant crisis, support for his party has surged to 32 per cent compared with just over 20 per cent for each of the governing parties.
But voters were unhappy with the Social Democrats and the People’s Party even before the migrant crisis last year forced their coalition government to swing from open borders to tough asylum restrictions.
Their bickering over key issues — most recently tax, pension and education reform — has fed perceptions of political stagnation.