Faces of the day


Alexander Van der Bellen (L) and Norbert Hofer, 21 MayImage copyright AFP

Today’s faces of the day are Austrian politicians, Green Party candidate Alexander Van der Bellen on the left and Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer on the right.Both are running for the position of President and already the main centrist party candidates are out of the race.

Austrians have begun voting in a presidential run-off poll that could elect the European Union’s first far-right leader.Norbert Hofer, of the Freedom Party, faces independent Alexander Van der Bellen, backed by the Greens….For the first time since World War Two, both the main centrist parties were knocked out in the first round.The migrant crisis has become the key issue.Ninety-thousand people claimed asylum in Austria last year, equivalent to about 1% of the Austrian population, and the Freedom Party has run a campaign against immigration.


While the presidency is a largely ceremonial post, the president has powers to dismiss the government – something Mr Hofer has already threatened to do.And a Hofer victory could be the springboard for Freedom Party success in the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2018.

Europe will be watching: Bethany Bell, BBC News, Vienna

Austria is faced with a stark choice for its head of state: a Green Party professor, Alexander Van der Bellen, or Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party – a soft-spoken, charismatic gun enthusiast who won a decisive victory in the first round of voting in April.

…Support for the Freedom Party has risen because of deep frustration with the established parties and, more recently, because of fears about the migrant crisis.
Right-wing parties are gaining strength in a number of EU countries. European leaders will be watching the result closely.



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