Norbert Hofer missed out narrowly on winning the second round run-off in the Austrian presidential election. But supporters of the far-right candidate and like-minded European parties see the result as a turning point.
“It doesn’t matter how the results turn out, whether Hofer will now be president or not, but it is simply a milestone, to achieve so much,” said one supporter, while another added: “I feel this is a turning point for all of Europe. We are very happy.”
The result in Austria is the latest warning for the European Union. It comes a month after the Dutch electorate voted in a referendum against the free trade deal with Ukraine. The crushing defeat – with 61 percent of voters rejecting it – was political victory for Geert Wilders, anti-Islam leader of the far-right Freedom Party. He said it was a vote of defiance against the European Union.
Another link which joins these radical parties is the rejection of immigration or Islamophobia. In Germany the Pegida movement is the most extreme in expressing these ideals. But this mistrust of Muslims is shared with the the Alternative for Germany Party – the AFD.
In its election manifesto it contended that Islam is incompatible with the country’s constitution. The party made strong gains in the March regional elections and took seats in all the three regional parliaments that voted with results ranging from 12 to 24 percent of the vote.
“This is a European movement with a number of elements to underline. It concerns more central and northern Europe while on the other hand Spain, Portugal and Italy are relatively spared such movements.
“Certainly in Italy there is The Northern League and the same in Greece with Golden Dawn, but they don’t carry the same weight as parties like Austria’s Freedom Party, the National Front, the Danish People’s Party and The Finns,” explains Pascal Delwit Political Analyst, University Libre de Bruxelles.
In France the National Front won the first round of six regional elections last December with increased margins though were soundly beaten in the second round.
It is a year to the presidential elections in France and most polls show that the National Front leader Marine Le Pen will win through to the second round.
Analysts have speculated the outcome may be influenced by the result in Austria and the how the anti-EU Brexit campaigners fare in next month’s referendum in the United Kingdom.