Austria populists tone down EU stance

EPA/CHRISTIAN BRUNA

Austrian far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPOe) presidential candidate Norbert Hofer announces his election program for the repeat of the Austrian Presidential election runoff in Vienna, Austria, 29 August 2016.

Norbert Hofer said that Austria should form a “union within the union” with Slovenia, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Hungary.


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In the run up to October’s presidential election in Austria, the country’s far-right anti-immigration Freedom Party took some bite out of its rhetoric targeting the European Union.

Norbert Hofer, the Freedom Party candidate, told reporters in Vienna on August 29 that “we have to work much closely together”.

He said that Austria should form a “union within the union” with Slovenia, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

As reported by Bloomberg, Austria’s unprecedented presidential election repeat is being shaped by voter attitudes to the EU following the UK’s decision to quit the bloc and the other 27 leaders’ decision to meet in Austria’s neighbour Slovakia next month to chart a path forward without Britain.

Hofer’s rival, former Austrian Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen, is seeking to leverage worries over Brexit into a victory at the polls. One of his campaign billboards, presented last week, contains the slogan “Stronger together. No to Oexit,” referring to an exit from the European Union by Austria, or Oesterreich in German.

According to Bloomberg, the Freedom Party, which is allied with Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France and the Alternative for Germany party, has congratulated Britain on its decision to leave the EU and said it would seek a referendum in Austria if either Turkey joins the bloc or more power is transferred to Brussels from Vienna.

In a separate report, The Local noted that around 15% of Austrian swing voters are still undecided about who to support in the presidential election re-run taking place in October.

In May, Alexander van der Bellen had narrowly beaten Hofer, but the election was recalled after a court found discrepancies in the counting of votes.

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