Austria, 2007 © Michael Tholen | Flickr
EssaysFeature

A Near-Miss in Austria? Maybe Not

Norbert Hofer must have been shocked when he heard the final result. The right-winger lost a presidential election he seemed to have had in the bag. In the end, just 31,026 votes separated him from rival Robert Van der Bellen of the Green Party. The postal votes won it for the Green. All the “rootless cosmopolitans” who mailed in their votes seemed to have decided the outcome.

Many Europeans got rather worked up about the idea that Hofer would win the election. Yes, the Austrian president’s job is largely ceremonial. Still: the Freedom Party candidate threatened to turn the role into something more substantial. He pledged to sack the current Austrian government for its policy on refugees. It was unclear what would happen after that.

That sounds scary. As does the fact that nearly half of Austrians have voted for a man from a party whose first leader, Anton Reithalter, was an SS brigade commander with a long career in the Reichstag. …

READ MORE →