Austrian Nationalists Trounce Political Establishment In Landmark Presidential Election

Austria’s anti mass immigration party triumphed Sunday in the first round of presidential elections, dealing a wake-up call to Vienna’s cosy political establishment two years before the next scheduled general election. Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party (FPOe) won 36.7 of the vote, projections showed, with candidates from the two governing parties failing to even make it into a runoff on May 22, projections showed. The result, if confirmed, means that for the first time since 1945, Austria will not have a president backed by either the Social Democrats (SPOe) or their centre-right coalition partners the People’s Party (OeVP). The SPOe’s candidate Rudolf Hundstorfer came joint fourth with just 11.2 percent, level with Andreas Khol of the OeVP. It was the best-ever result at federal level for the FPOe, whose entry into government in 2000 under the late SS-admiring Joerg Haider sent shock waves through Europe. Facing Hofer on May 22 will instead be either Alexander van der Bellen, backed by the Greens, who garnered 19.7 percent, or independent candidate Irmgard Griss, a former judge hoping to be Austria’s first female president, who won 18.8 percent. The only candidate who fared worse than the main parties’ candidates was Richard Lugner,