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Austrian far-right party triumphs

April 24, 2016

Austria's anti-immigration Freedom Party has secured victory in the first round of presidential elections. Exit polls show Norbert Hofer of the FPÖ winning 36.7 percent of the votes in a landmark win for the party.

Austrian far right Freedom Party (FPOe) presidential candidate Norbert Hofer waves with Austrian flags during the final election rally in Vienna, Austria, April 22, 2016 (Photo: REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger)
Image: Reuters/L. Foeger

The result means that for the first time since 1945, Austria will not have a president backed by either the Social Democrats (SPÖ) or the center-right People's Party (ÖVP).

The two candidates nominated by the ruling parties failed to make it to the runoff to be held on May 22, early exit polls showed.

SPÖ candidate Rudolf Hundstorfer came fourth with over 11 percent, level with ÖVP's Andreas Khol.

It is the Freedom Party's best-ever performance at the federal level since its creation after World War II, reflecting the Austrian voters' dissatisfaction with the status-quo.

"Like elsewhere in Europe, we are witnessing the downfall of the traditional parties," political analyst Peter Hajek told the AFP news agency.

The rising anti-migrant sentiment in Austria has also played a role in the FPÖ's phenomenal success, analysts say.

"In the past, the presidential election focused on personalities, but this year political issues have also come into play. Hundstorfer and Khol will have to pay for their parties' failings," said Karin Cvrtila of pollster OGM.

Green candidate Alexander Van der Bellen has also advanced to the second and final round of elections and will face FPÖ's Norbert Hofer.

Van der Bellen came second with 21.1 percent of the votes. The economics scholar has served in the Green party for 11 years.

shs/jlw (AFP, AP, Reuters)