- Title: Polls open in Austria's presidential run-off
- Date: 4th December 2016
- Summary: HOFER'S FACE ON POSTER
- Embargoed: 19th December 2016 08:32
- Keywords: Austria election voting polls presidential Vienna
- Location: VIENNA, AUSTRIA
- City: VIENNA, AUSTRIA
- Country: Austria
- Reuters ID: LVA0045BGUHJB
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Austrians went to the polls in a presidential run-off vote on Sunday morning (December 4), in a vote that could deliver the first freely-elected far-right head of state in Europe since World War Two.
The knife-edge presidential run-off is all the more dramatic for being a re-run of an election held six months ago - before Britain chose to leave the European Union and Americans elected Donald Trump as president - offering an indication of whether popular anger at the political establishment has grown.
Far-right candidate Norbert Hofer of the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPO) narrowly lost the original run-off in May, with 49.65 percent of the vote to the 72-year-old former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen. But the vote was annulled by a court decision because of irregularities in the count of postal ballots.
What influence Trump and Brexit have had on Austria since then is unclear, but the fault lines are similar with blue-collar workers largely backing Hofer, while the highly educated favour Van der Bellen.
Van der Bellen has put Brexit at the heart of his campaign, arguing that Hofer wants Austria to hold its own "Oexit" referendum, putting jobs at risk in the small, trade-dependent country.
Austria's president traditionally has a largely ceremonial role, but Hofer has made clear he wants to be an interventionist head of state, threatening to dismiss a government if it raises taxes and calling for referendums on a range of issues, even though referendums are beyond the job's remit.
Officials are this time aiming to do everything by the book, in the hope that a small delay to the result prevents bigger problems down the line.
Opinion polls suggest the race remains too close to call and could again come down to postal ballots, meaning the final result might come as late as Tuesday (December 6).
The first projections are due shortly after polling stations close at 5 p.m. (4 p.m. GMT).
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