The decision by Austria’s Constitutional Court to annul the outcome of the May presidential election has unsettled pro-European officials and politicians across the EU who fear that, after Britain, Austria could be the next country to turn its back on the European Union.
The rerun of the second round, which will be held on 2 October, has revived the spectre of an elected far right head of state in Europe for the first time since the Second World War. In May, the EU-sceptic and far-right candidate Norbert Hofer lost by less than a percentage point to the pro-EU Green Party-aligned contender Alexander van der Bellen. With national elections coming up next year in the Netherlands and France, where far-right parties pose a significant challenge, all eyes will be on the outcome in Austria.
The post-Brexit referendum plight of the EU is set to take centre-stage in the Austrian rerun. Top officials from Hofer’s Freedom Party have suggested that if the European Union, within a year, does not show that it is acting in the interest of Austrian people by renouncing a more centralised union – a vague, easily malleable demand – then they would also seek to hold a referendum on EU membership. Polls have the two candidates neck and neck again.
The decisive question this time around is: How many swing voters will be pushed into the arms of a strong, nationalist figure like Hofer by the Brexit vote in the belief that ‘their’ Austria is under threat? How many of them yearn for a man does not mince his words or his policies and who, in their view, is putting Austria first?
Full Article: Austrian election sets Europe’s nerves on edge.