Austrian Nationalists Look Likely To Ride Migrant Crisis To First Presidency Since WWII


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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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Norbert Hofer of the nationalist Freedom Party holds a slight edge in Austria’s presidential election as a winner will be called Monday.

The race between Hofer and independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen was too close to call when polls closed Sunday afternoon. Hofer holds a 3.8 point lead, but the gap is expected to shrink when counters include absentee ballots Monday.

If elected, Hofer will become the first nationalist head of state in Europe since the end of World War II.

Hofer’s success can largely be attributed to dissatisfaction with the migrant crisis in Austria. Hofer opposes Muslim immigration and is skeptical of the European Union.

“To those in Austria who go to war for the Islamic State or rape women – I say to those people: ‘This is not your home,'” Hofer said during his campaign.

Hofer has also attracted attention for carrying a Glock handgun with him on the campaign trail in an attempt to encourage Austrians to arm themselves for protection. (RELATED: Gun-toting Immigration Foe Wins Austrian Presidential Vote)

Hofer shocked Austrians when he won the first round of voting April 24 by 17 points. Opponents of the Freedom Party have been trying to unite voters around Van der Bellen to block Hofer’s nomination, and migrants have expressed fear for what would happen to them.

“Hofer is selling himself as a nice, friendly person at the moment, but he’s dangerous,” Osman, a Bosnian immigrant to Austria, told Deutsche Welle.

The presidency is a ceremonial role and comes with no formal power. Unlike monarchs, the Austrian president is allowed to express political views. People believe this will benefit the Freedom Party with the next parliamentary election coming up in 2018.

“You will be surprised what can be done [by a president],” Hofer said in a recent TV debate.

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Tags : austria
Jacob Bojesson