21:04 GMT +315 December 2017
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    A man walks between election posters of Alexander Van der Bellen, candidate for presidential elections and former head of the Austrian Greens, right, and Norbert Hofer, candidate for presidential elections of Austria's right-wing Freedom Party, FPOE, left, in Vienna, Austria

    EU Voters 'Support Right-Wing Parties Due to Fear of Growing Immigration'

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    In an interview with Sputnik, Hans Rauscher, a columnist for the liberal Austrian newspaper Der Standard commented on the ways Austria's political scene could be influenced by the recent vote on Brexit.

    Replying to the question of whether Brexit had an effect on the court's decision, the expert said the consequences of the British referendum for Austria could be ambivalent.

    On the one hand, Britain's decision could influence the majority of Austrians who are in favor of staying in the EU and make them even more "pro-EU." But on the other hand, the referendum could be beneficial for Austria's Freedom Party "which is very much anti-EU and which has already called for an Austrian referendum."

    Following the victory of the Eurosceptics during the British referendum, many EU critics started rapidly gaining popularity across Europe. Austria is not the only EU member state which is leaning toward a right-wing course. According to the expert, the popularity of right-wing parties across Europe can be explained by two factors.

    "First of all, the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Christian Democrats has a lot [weaker] performance. And the biggest issue is immigration. As in other European countries, the voters vote for the right-wing parties because they are afraid that the benefits of a strong wealthy state in Austria would be given to immigrants, especially Muslim immigrants. And this is a very strong argument," Rauscher stated.

    "There will be a real fight for Austria's connection with the EU," he added.

    However, despite recent developments, Rauscher is confident that the EU can still carry out necessary reforms and get back its strength and unity.

    "I think the EU has just one more chance of turning itself into a reform-minded, better functioning organization. Otherwise, it would be not a very good proposition," the expert concluded.

    Earlier, Austria's highest court annulled the results of the presidential election and ordered a recount after a complaint was filed by the right-wing Freedom Party about "irregularities and failures" during the vote count.

    The Freedom Party candidate, Norbert Hofer, lost the election to the former leader of the Greens, Alexander Van der Bellen, by around 31 000 votes, or less than one percentage point.

    The court ruling, which gives him a second chance, comes a week after Britain voted to leave the EU in a move that was welcomed by Europe's right-wing politicians.

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    Brexit, parties, right-wing, European Union, Alexander Van der Bellen, Norbert Hofer, Europe, Austria
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