- Title: Austrian far-right candidate lashes out over "Oexit" charges
- Date: 2nd December 2016
- Summary: VIENNA, AUSTRIA (DECEMBER 2, 2016) (REUTERS) AUDIENCE AT THE CAMPAIGN RALLY
- Embargoed: 17th December 2016 13:41
- Keywords: Austria Nobert Hofer Election Brexit
- Location: VIENNA, AUSTRIA
- City: VIENNA, AUSTRIA
- Country: Austria
- Reuters ID: LVA0015B6YV5Z
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Norbert Hofer, vying to become the first freely elected far-right head of state in Europe since World War Two, held a final campaign rally in Vienna on Friday (December 2).
In case of victory, Hofer, a candidate of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO), would become the first far-right head of state in the European Union since World War Two.
His opponent is the former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen, and polls show them neck-and-neck only days before the vote on Sunday (December 4).
Hofer had initially said Austria could follow Britain's vote on the EU with one of its own within a year. Although he quickly backed away from that suggestion, Van der Bellen has cited it as proof Hofer wants Austria to follow Britain's Brexit referendum with an "Oexit" (Austria's departure from the EU) vote of its own.
Hofer said that opponents who repeatedly accused him of seeking a break with the European Union (EU) were themselves damaging Austria.
The 8.7 million nation of Austria has taken in more than 120,000 migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia since last year, which caused many Austrians to resent the EU's failure to find joint solutions to the unprecedented influx of people fleeing conflict and poverty.
The Hofer campaign was run on a populist Austria-first platform, which includes calls to stop immigration.
Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the FPO said that he thinks Nobert Hofer is a presidential candidate who represents the Austrian people.
"Norbert Hofer will be a president who will act independently from political parties, in the interest of the people, and he will make sure that political parties do not decide against the people's will," he said.
Hofer said that he gets a lot of questions asking if Austria will leave the EU but his answer is that it is Austria's duty as a country in the middle of Europe is to develop the union.
"I think that those people who always talk about "Oexit" and blame others saying that talking about "Oexit" damages the country, have to reflect on themselves and think whether they themselves are not the biggest damage for Austria," he said.
Hofer narrowly lost the initial May 22 vote to Van der Bellen but it has been rerun because of irregularities in the count of postal ballots. Opinion polls since have regularly shown the race is too close to call.
Hofer had already lost a run-off against Van der Bellen in May by a mere 31,000 votes, but got a new chance when the constitutional court annulled the result due to counting irregularities and ordered a new vote.
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