The mainstream parties face a shutout for the first time since WWII.
The first round of elections is Sunday, April 24. The top two candidates will face a runoff on May 22 unless a candidate gets an outright majority in round one.
The first round of elections for a new Austrian president this weekend threatens to send tremors through Europe’s political establishment, with the far-right and Greens expected to knock the country’s two main political parties out of the race for the first time in modern history.
Since 1945, occupants of Vienna’s Hofburg palace have been backed by either the centre-left Social Democratic party (SPÖ) or centre-right People’s party (ÖVP), which have dominated the country’s politics.
But in Sunday’s election for the country’s head of state, Norbert Hofer of the anti-immigrant Freedom party (FPÖ) is forecast by pollsters to take either first or second place after a surge in support following Europe’s refugee crisis.
While the Austrian president has a largely ceremonial role with few real powers — the government is run by the chancellor — Sunday’s election will be closely watched in other European capitals. It represents an extreme example of a dynamic in evidence across the continent of mainstream parties eroding as voters increasingly gravitate towards fringe, often populist, parties.
“Over the past decade, Austria has been a harbinger of things to come in the rest of Europe. The FPÖ’s xenophobic stances in Austria were taboo in Germany — but now populist movements are starting there as well,” says Heather Grabbe, European politics expert at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.
In France, National Front leader Marine Le Pen is expected to poll strongly in next year’s presidential election, pushing socialist incumbent François Hollande out of the race. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right bloc has lost support to the rightwing Alternative for Germany (AfD).
Opinion polls show the SPÖ and ÖVP candidates trailing in fourth and fifth place in Sunday’s contest.
If the FPÖ’s Mr Hofer secures a place in the second round vote, Austrian voters are likely rally around whomever his opponent is in an attempt to halt the party’s rise. But Vienna’s policy reversal over immigration showed the party’s growing influence over Austria policies.
Isolationists on the Rise
- US – Donald Trump – Republican
- France – Marine le Pen – National Front
- Germany – AfD
- Austria – Norbert Hofer – anti-immigration Freedom party (FPÖ)
- Spain – Pablo Iglesias – Podemos (We Can)
- Spain – Catalonia separatists
In the UK, the Brexit vote looms.
The social contract is broken. People are fed up on the left and right.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock