European rightists feel tailwind from Austrian election result

Far-right populist parties in several European countries hailed the victory of the Freedom Party (FPOe) in Austria's first round of presidential elections as a sign of growing support for their policies, including their anti-EU stance.

The anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) congratulated FPOe candidate Norbert Hofer on Monday for winning 35 per cent of the vote on Sunday.

"Our political ally in Austria has sent a further clear signal," leading AfD member Andre Poggenburg said.

Both parties had previously agreed that "the real political shift in Europe" must come from Germany and the AfD, he added.

In a run-off election on May 22, FPOe parliamentarian Hofer will face former Green party leader Alexander Van der Bellen, who came in second on Sunday with 21 per cent.

"There is clearly a growing awareness among people in Europe that the EU is an anti-democratic structure that subjugates people," Marine Le Pen, head of France's Front National, said.

People were starting to realize that the EU was not keeping its promises to foster economic growth and curb immigration, she added in an interview with broadcaster France 2.

The FPOe is "calling for controlled migration, more jobs and a different Europe - like us they want rules, order, jobs and tranquility," said Matteo Salvini, head of Italy's far-right Northern League movement.

Dutch right-wing populist Geert Wilders tweeted that Hofer's win was "Fantastic!"

Sunday's outcome spelled a major defeat for social democrats and conservatives, who form Austria's centrist coalition government led by Werner Faymann.

The candidates fielded by both parties received only 11 per cent each.

Social democratic chancellor Faymann faced pressure and indirect calls for his resignation from some party officials on Monday, but the party leadership said in a statement that "debates about personnel are definitely not going to be helpful."

Hofer has warned that, as president, he would consider dismissing the centrist government of social democrats and conservatives as a measure of last resort if there is no progress on boosting the economy and lowering unemployment.

If elected, Hofer said he would also refuse to sign a planned US-EU trade deal into law and would instead put the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) up for a referendum.

Last update: Mon, 25/04/2016 - 18:52

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