Monday, 25 April 2016

Austrian presidency: another triumph for opinion pollsters

Around a fortnight ago, the opinion pollsters in Austria were calling the presidential election for the Green-supported candidate, Alexander van der Bellen. He was said to have 26% of the vote, with Norbert Hofer of the neo-Nazi ultra-conservative Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) tied in second place at 19% with an independent candidate, Irmgard Griss. The implications for the EU were discussed in this pdf report. The rôle of the Austrian president is largely ceremonial, but he or she does have some key powers.

In the event, Hofer achieved a big win on the first ballot. He did not gain an overall majority, though, and there will thus be a run-off election between himself and the second-placed candidate, van der Bellen. The received wisdom of the French, who have the same ballotage system for not only their president but also members of the national assembly, is that electors vote with their hearts on the first round and with their heads on the second.

One worries about the heart of the Austrian people, but trusts that they will use their heads on May 22nd.

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