- Title: Austria prepares for presidential election
- Date: 1st December 2016
- Summary: VIENNA, AUSTRIA (NOVEMBER 30, 2016) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF ELECTION POSTERS FEATURING NORBERT HOFER AND ALEXANDER VAN DER BELLEN
- Embargoed: 16th December 2016 16:13
- Keywords: Austria Presidential Election vote Alexander Van der Bellen Norbert Hofer
- Location: ST. WOLFGANG / VIENNA, AUSTRIA
- City: ST. WOLFGANG / VIENNA, AUSTRIA
- Country: Austria
- Reuters ID: LVA0025B1ZN0N
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Austrians will vote on Sunday (December 4) on whether to choose a right wing head of state or to back an environmentalist candidate in a re-run of May's closely-fought election.
Former Green Party leader Alexander Van der Bellen is neck-and-neck with the right-wing Freedom Party (FPO) candidate Norbert Hofer in an election seen as the country's most important in decades.
For the first time in more than 50 years, Austria's highest office will be held neither by a social democrat nor a Christian democrat candidate.
The election held in May was won by Van der Bellen, but a rerun was ordered because of irregularities in the count of the postal ballots.
Hofer, a 45-year-old former aviation engineer who is campaigning on an anti-immigration platform, draws support from an anti-establishment sentiment and like U.S. president-elect Donald Trump, sees himself as a nationalist who recognises the concerns of ordinary people who believe they are ignored by a political establishment.
Van der Bellen is seeking to capitalise on Hofer's U-turn on Britain's Brexit vote.
Hofer initially said Austria could hold its own referendum on leaving the European Union within a year, but now no longer wants one.
The presidential run-off is too close to call, but the Freedom Party is leading in polls.
Against the background of the migration crisis, Sunday's contest will be watched across Europe as a barometer of anti-establishment sentiment and a test of support for populist right-wing politicians, following Britain's Brexit vote in June and ahead of elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany next year.
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