Sunday Austria will head again to the polls for the second round of historic elections. What normally is a snooze fest to coronate one of two main parties that have ruled Austria in some kind of grand coalition for 70 years has turned into something quite different.
The first round of the presidential election, on April 24, saw Hofer of the FPÖ take 36.4% of the votes, followed by Van der Bellen of the Green party, with 21.3% of the ballot. The two establishment parties slunk in at a distant 3rd and 4th place with 11% each, not enough to make it into the run-off. Pollsters had completely underestimated Hofer's popularity and completely overestimated everyone else's chances.
Frequently in Europe, where most countries are governed by parliamentary majorities, the main establishment parties attempt to ostracize any populist contenders by joining forces. This time the establishment parties didn't even make it to the 2nd round of voting.
The second round of the presidential election, scheduled for Sunday, will pitch the young and photogenic front-runner Hofer, an anti-immigration populist and critic of Islam, against Van der Bellen, a former, rather old à la Bernie Sanders, Green Party leader opposed to restrictions on refugees entering the country. At a time when the number one issue for people in Europe is immigration, the only person opposing Hofer is a man 30 years his senior lost in the rhetoric of the '68 revolution who wants open borders.
Further the Green party throughout Europe has morphed from a party focused on environmental issues to become the de facto party of 3rd world immigration. This kind of anti-European focus does not endear them to the average European.
In Austria, a May 12 Gallup poll for the daily newspaper Österreich showed Hofer leading in the second round of the presidential election with 53% of votes, with Van der Bellen scoring 47%. Other polls consistently show Hofer’s FPÖ to have become the country’s most popular party, 10 points ahead of the leading center-right and center-left parties.
Online voting following the last debate registered 65% for Hofer over Bellen. The debate itself was an interesting experiment gone awry, with the two candidates debating each other without a moderator. Pitting the Austrian patriot against the green globalist without a moderator was guaranteed to be contentious. The last round of debates for the US GOP also got pretty rough, and they are in the same party. Regardless, the outcome of the debate ultimately, still seemed to favor Hofer.
What will it all mean? Oddly, if Bellen wins the largely ceremonial post, it will only mean that the establishment parties were able to band together in a rather perverse coalition and thwart the will of the voters. The FPÖ is clearly the largest party in Austria. If Hofer wins, not only does he have the ability to call for elections sooner than 2018, but symbolically it will send positive signals throughout Europe that people want massive changes in migration policy and the EU.