12:52 GMT +318 February 2019
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    Presidential candidate Norbert Hofer (R) and head of the Austrian Freedom party Heinz-Christian Strache (L) react at the party headquarter in Vienna, Austria, April 24, 2016.

    Austria Parties May Unite to Prevent Far-Right Victory in Presidential Vote

    © REUTERS / Heinz-Peter Bader
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    Austrian Freedom Party (FPO) candidate Norbert Hofer’s prospects in the second round of the presidential election is uncertain as other parties are expected to urge voters to unite around his main rival to prevent the far-right politician from winning, a spokesman for the German right-wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD) told Sputnik on Friday.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Hofer topped the first round of Austria's presidential election in late April, with 36 percent of the vote, followed by the Greens’ Alexander van der Bellen on 20 percent, while four other candidates lagged well behind them. The two candidates are due to face each other in a runoff on May 22.

    "Of course all the other parties will rally together just for one reason: to prevent Norbert Hofer from winning. Therefore it is not certain, that he can win over van der Bellen," AfD’s Ronald Glaser predicted.

    In the past, FPO candidates have often been subjected to a strategy of "cordon sanitaire" by the two traditional parties – the Social-Democratic Party (SPO) and the Austrian People's Party (OVP). This time around, pundits predict that both parties will call on voters to rally around van der Bellen simply to prevent a Hofer victory, similar to the situation seen in France in 2002, when French voters united around Jacques Chirac to crush the far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election.

    On the other hand, Glaser suggested that the bulk of Austrian People's Party (OVP) supports, whose candidate managed to secure just 11 percent in the first round, would not follow the party's wish to vote for the Green candidate "only for tactical reasons."

    "Therefore Hofer has more than a theoretical chance [of winning]," the AfD representative concluded.

    Prior to the first round of presidential elections, polls had the Austrian far-right politician commanding a maximum 25 percent of support with almost the same level of support for van der Bellen. Therefore, the performance put in by Hofer, the most successful result ever for a FPO candidate in a national election, came as a big surprise for many.


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    Alternative for Germany (AfD), Austrian Freedom Party (FPO), Austria
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