Will Austria be ruled by the far right?
Austrians will choose between independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen and the candidate of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) Norbert Hofer in Sunday's presidential election. Many voters aren't aware of the symbolic and real danger electing a right-wing populist candidate represents, Europe's press fears.
Right-wing populists the norm nowadays
Austria needn't fear any sanctions if Norbert Hofer becomes president, Dilema Veche comments:
“The Austrian election is the first big test for populist strategies since Trump's election in the US. The vote on Sunday could see the election of Europe's first far-right president since the Second World War. It is true that the role of Austrian president is traditionally only representative. But the symbolic character of this election could have a far-reaching impact. … In 1999 the FPÖ under Jörg Haider's leadership formed part of a centre-right ruling coalition. The governments of other EU member states reacted with diplomatic sanctions against Vienna. But Europe's politics have changed a lot in the last 15 years. Today Austria is not in any danger of repercussions. Far-right politicians like Hofer are no longer an anomaly but have become an integral part of the political landscape.”
Hofer playing at being harmless
The FPÖ's presidential candidate Norbert Hofer has good chances of winning because he hasn't told voters what he plans to do after the election, Dennik N comments:
“Hofer's success so far is based on the fact that he has been able to come across as a moderate candidate. This means many voters don't realise who they are actually voting for here. But just take a look at Poland. Jarosław Kaczyński won the election there after eight years in the opposition among other things because he managed to seduce many moderate voters. They would never have voted for him before, but they thought he had changed. Kaczyński remained in the background and sent Andrzej Duda, an acceptable option for normal voters, into the fray. He only came to the fore with his authoritarian ideas once the party was in power again. It will be the same with Hofer, who once he has been elected as president will set about paving the way for the FPÖ to take power.”