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Vienna museum cancels migrant ‘propaganda’ play

A controversial theater piece about two refugees, one from Syria and one "from Africa," has been canceled hours before its public premiere. But the government-commissioned play has been seen by thousands of children.

e Weltmuseum in Vienna on Friday canceled the first public performance of “World in Flux” (“Welt in Bewegung”), a play about migrants in Austria, shortly before its premiere following criticism that the government-commissioned work was “crude propaganda” and full of racist stereotypes. The work had already been seen by thousands of schoolchildren as part of a special free viewing program. ... Read More »

Italy declares state of emergency following deadly explosion at Austrian pipeline

A major gas pipeline hub in Baumgarten, outside of Vienna, has exploded, killing one person and injuring 18. The blast has cut off supplies from the hub to southern Europe, forcing Italy to declare a state of emergency. An explosion rocked a major European pipeline hub at Baumgarten an der March, east of Vienna, Tuesday morning, prompting Italy to declare a state of emergency as flows from the site were cut off. One person died in the blast while a further 18 were injured, one seriously, according to officials. Austrian Authorities said the explosion was triggered by a "technical cause," without providing further detail. Located near Austria's eastern border with Slovakia, the Baumgarten gas hub is one of Europe's largest and most important distribution points for natural gas from Russia, Norway and other states. It handles some 40 billion cubic meters per year, redistributing it around Europe, including to Germany, France, Italy, Slovakia and Croatia. Gas prices soar News of the explosion threw the European gas market into turmoil amid fears that supplies would be tightened during the winter months. According to the Baumgarten site's operator, Gas Connect, the blast should have no bearing on the supply of natural gas to Germany, although it warned that the supply to Italy and the Balkan states would take a significant hit. Read more: North Sea pipeline shutdown impacts supply The pipeline remains temporarily shut down having sustained "major" material damage, according to Gas Connect spokesman Armin Teichert. Italy declares state of emergency Italy, the Baumgarten hub's biggest recipient, declared a state of emergency following the blast, with the country's industry minister warning that it was facing a "serious" energy supply problem. A state of emergency status would allow the Italian government to carry out extraordinary measures to try to meet energy demands, such as allowing coal and oil power plants to fire at full blast. Read more: Nordstream II gas pipeline in deep water According to the Reuters news agency, the Italian wholesale day-ahead supply of natural gas rose 150 percent to €60 per megawatt-hour (MWh) — an all-time high. The export arm of Russian energy giant Gazprom said it was working to redirect gas flows to southern Europe and to avoid any interruptions in the supply.

A major gas pipeline hub in Baumgarten, outside of Vienna, has exploded, killing one person and injuring 18. The blast has cut off supplies from the hub to southern Europe, forcing Italy to declare a state of emergency. An explosion rocked a major European pipeline hub at Baumgarten an der March, east of Vienna, Tuesday morning, prompting Italy to declare ... Read More »

Austrian Jewish leader warns against working with far-right Freedom Party

The head of Austria's Jewish community has cautioned against forming a government with the right-wing Freedom Party. He warned that the party is still highly xenophobic despite its attempts to tone down its rhetoric. With formal coalition talks due to begin within days, the president of Austria's main Jewish association issued a warning to the country's centrist parties about working with the far-right, nationalist Freedom Party (FPÖ). "When the nationalist wolf puts on a blue sheepskin, it changes only its appearance and not its character," Oskar Deutsch, the head of Vienna and Austria's Jewish communities, wrote in an open letter on Facebook on Sunday. Blue is color of the Freedom Party. The conservative People's Party (ÖVP), headed by Sebastian Kurz, won the most votes in this month's election but came up short of a majority at 32 percent. The center-left Social Democrats (SPÖ) came in second with around 26.9 percent closely followed by the anti-immigration FPÖ at 26 percent. Kurz previously said his party shares common ground with the FPÖ on several issues, although he said on Monday that he's unsure which party he would like to enter coalition talks with. It's predicted that he will turn to the far-right FPÖ as both parties called for the government to take a hard line on migration during the election. They both also want to decrease taxes on companies. Read more: Make Austria Great Again — the rapid rise of Sebastian Kurz "If ÖVP and SPÖ believe they can tame the wolf, they are deceiving themselves," Deutsch said in his post, adding that any government involving the FPÖ would be "irresponsible." "Whether a grand coalition or a minority government will be formed ... is secondary," noted Deutsch. "It's important to be aware of the responsibilities for Austria, for Europe, and for the future." On Friday, Kurz posted a picture on Twitter of a meeting with Deutsch on Friday, writing: "I am thankful for the active Jewish community in our country." FPÖ rejects criticism Founded by former Nazis around 60 years ago, the FPÖ has since worked to attract more moderate voters by toning down its rhetoric and shifting its focus from being anti-foreigner to staunchly anti-Islam. The party's most prominent Jewish member, David Lasar, dismissed Deutsch's remarks in a statement. Read more:Austria election: Europe reacts to Sebastian Kurz victory "The FPÖ has always been committed to the safety of Austria's Jewish population, especially at a time that anti-Semitism has strengthened its base in Europe due to the limitless immigration of Islamist fundamentalists," Lasar said. Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache has insisted that anti-Semitism has no place in the current FPÖ, which regularly has to expel members who cross the line. Strache has also called anti-Semitism a crime and visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. "Symbolic visits to Israel cannot conceal all this. Austria's Jewish community will not whitewash (this)," Deutsch said. He added that there were racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic incidents "almost daily" in Austria.

The head of Austria’s Jewish community has cautioned against forming a government with the right-wing Freedom Party. He warned that the party is still highly xenophobic despite its attempts to tone down its rhetoric. With formal coalition talks due to begin within days, the president of Austria’s main Jewish association issued a warning to the country’s centrist parties about working ... Read More »

Angela Merkel denies major damage after conservatives’ local election loss

Is Angela Merkel already under pressure less than a month after re-election? The German chancellor has fought back after her party's poor performance in Lower Saxony and the rise of a "new" conservatism in Austria. It's safe to say that October 15 won't make Angela Merkel's list of favorite days. Having led by as much as 10 percentage points in polls not that long ago, the chancellor's conservative CDU party finished second-best to the Social Democrats in Lower Saxony's regional election, causing critics to ponder whether Merkel's fortunes were on the wane. A headline in Germany's Bild newspaper termed the chancellor "seriously damaged" – an impression she sought to refute on Monday as she heads into negotiations for a broad three-party coalition to form the next government. "I – or we as the CDU, as conservatives – are going into these discussions secure in the knowledge that we're the strongest party," Merkel told reporters at party headquarters in Berlin. "I don't see the result of the Lower Saxony vote as weakening us as we tackle this task.” It was perhaps a telling near-slip of the tongue. Despite winning Germany's national election last month, the result was the CDU's worst ever in terms of percentage, which has led some critics to speculate that Merkel's moderation may be costing the party right-wing votes. Austria's simultaneous national lurch to the right after a victory by a self-branded new style of conservative, Sebastian Kurz, was also interpreted as an implicit criticism of the centrist Merkel and her welcoming stance on migrants. Both Kurz's conservatives and the right-wing populist FPÖ performed strongly. "The success of Kurz and the FPÖ can be interpreted as the opposite of Merkel's position, as a rejection of the culture of welcoming migrants," political science professor Eckhard Jesse told DW. Merkel dismissed the idea that Kurz had gotten something right that she had gotten wrong. "Our margin of victory over the second strongest party was a lot larger," Merkel said, adding that Germany's far-right populist party, the AfD, had achieved far more "modest" results then the FPÖ. Refugees a 'matter of rhetoric' Still, Merkel did seem a bit disgruntled. The longtime chancellor was no doubt hoping for a bit more momentum as she attempts to build Germany's first ever "Jamaica" coalition with the free-market FDP and the more left-wing Greens. Another question heading into Wednesday's first talks was where the CDU would position itself in that triangle. There has been speculation that after conservatives won less than 33 percent of the vote in the Bundestag election on September 24, Merkel would have no choice but to reposition her party further to the right. As if to refute that notion, the chancellor appeared in front of a backdrop with the slogan "Die Mitte," or "the center." She also said that the policy differences, particularly on the issue of migrants, between her conservatives and Kurz's party in Austria had been overestimated. "As far as differences in refugee policy are concerned, I've talked with Mr. Kurz a number of times, and they're not all that clear," Merkel said. "I think there's not much disagreement about fighting the root causes and the need to conclude an agreement with Turkey. It's more a matter of rhetoric." While Merkel would lose credibility with a dramatic shift to the right, experts say that the chancellor, who has promised there will be no repeat of the mass migration to Germany of 2015, has already tacitly begun modulating her positions. "In practice, she's already moved, but she's not going to make a big deal of it in the form of statements," Jesse explained. Still, it's going to be a tricky balancing act to mediate between the FDP's calls for more restrictive policies on migrants with the Green's more welcoming position – all the while trying to ensure that the wishes of her own party are met. An orderly transition to a post-Merkel era? Merkel stressed that she was not going into coalition talks with any preconceived notions, saying that the CDU would not be presenting any "lines in the sand." When asked which topics the CDU would be pushing, she named pensions and the needs of rural people. Otherwise, she tended to stick to issues on which there is broad consensus, like the need for more digitalization and affordable places to live in Germany, while largely avoiding the migrant topic. That may be interpreted as weakness, although Jesse cautioned against reading too much into one bad day for the chancellor. "The election in Lower Saxony was very much one of local issues," he explained. "The Jamaica coalition is not endangered. It's nonsense to act as though Merkel's position in the coalition negotiations has been weakened." But Jesse also thinks that Merkel's next moves will be conditioned by the idea that she may not want to serve out another full four year term as chancellor. "The question is how long she wants to do this," Jesse said. "I think she'll hand over power some time in the next legislative period. She'll make a surprise announcement, and the next man or woman will have a chance to show what he or she can do. I believe she'll be the first chancellor to successfully manage a transition."

Is Angela Merkel already under pressure less than a month after re-election? The German chancellor has fought back after her party’s poor performance in Lower Saxony and the rise of a “new” conservatism in Austria. It’s safe to say that October 15 won’t make Angela Merkel’s list of favorite days. Having led by as much as 10 percentage points in ... Read More »

Austria’s vice chancellor steps down, setting stage for political shake-up

Reinhold Mitterlehner will also abandon all positions in the Austrian People's Party. His announcement throws the future of Austria's ruling coalition into doubt and raises the specter of early elections. Mitterlehner explained his decision in blunt terms during a last-minute press conference in Vienna on Wednesday. "I think that's enough," the 61-year-old politician said in his remarks. "It is simply no longer enjoyable, and it no longer makes sense," he added, referring to his job. The Austrian People's Party's (ÖVP) has been struggling with political infighting, and Mitterlehner had faced increased internal pressure relating to his leadership style. In recent days, fellow ÖVP politician and Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said Mitterlehner had "failed as chancellor." Mitterlehner will officially step down from his position as vice chancellor and economic, research and science minister this coming Monday. He will resign from his party post over the weekend, a position he has held since 2014. Who steps in? Also over the weekend, the ÖVP will meet to discuss who could take over Mitterlehner's positions. Current Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, the conservative party's youthful hope, is considered to be Mitterlehner's logical successor. However, the 30-year-old Kurz has previously stated that he does not wish to take the party reins at this time, despite being popular for his tough migration policies. Read more: Austrian Foriegn Minister threatens sanctions for refugee homelands Early elections? Under Mitterlehner, the ÖVP has been the junior partner in an increasingly shaky grand coalition with the center-left Austrian Social Democrats (SPÖ) under current Chancellor Christian Kern. His departure further erodes the already-weak alliance and increases the possibility that the coalition will completely crumble, thereby triggering early elections. However, in response to Mitterlehner's unexpected announcement, Chancellor Kern expressed his desire to keep the coalition afloat until the regularly scheduled parliamentary elections in late 2018. "I am convinced that it makes sense to use the more than one year that remains to implement the necessary changes in our country," Kern said on the heels of Mitterlehner's announcement. "I offer a reform partnership to the ÖVP and to Sebastian Kurz," Kern added. Hardliners within the ÖVP have questioned the party's future in light of their long-term junior status, as well as the threat posed to them by the increasing strength of the far-right populist Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ). The ÖVP currently trails both the FPÖ and the SPÖ in the polls. Read more: Is fear of the FPÖ driving Austria to the right?

Reinhold Mitterlehner will also abandon all positions in the Austrian People’s Party. His announcement throws the future of Austria’s ruling coalition into doubt and raises the specter of early elections. Mitterlehner explained his decision in blunt terms during a last-minute press conference in Vienna on Wednesday. “I think that’s enough,” the 61-year-old politician said in his remarks. “It is simply ... Read More »

Austria calls for less money for EU states opposing refugee distribution

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has called for increased pressure on countries shirking their responsibility in the redistribution of refugees. "Solidarity is not a one-way street," the Social Democrat said of the EU. Ahead of an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern called for increased pressure on countries in the 28-member bloc that continue to fail to take in refugees. "In future, the money from the EU budget must be distributed more equally among the member countries," Kern told German daily "Die Welt." "If countries continue to duck away from resolving the issue of migration, or tax dumping at the expense of their neighbors, they will no longer be able to receive net payments of billions from Brussels," Kern said in the article published on Wednesday, arguing that "solidarity is not a one-way street." On issues such as economic development, security interests or sanctions against Russia, some EU countries expect solidarity from other member states, Kern said, "but on other important issues they do not want to know anything about solidarity." "Selective solidarity should in the future also lead to selective payability among the net payers," the Social Democrat (SPÖ) leader said. EU members shirking responsibility In net terms, Austria accounted for some 851 million euros ($898 million) of contributions to the European Union in 2015. Other net contributors were Germany (14.3 billion euros), the UK (11.5 billion euros) and France (5.5 billion euros). Several Eastern European countries, on the other hand, receive more money from the EU than they contribute. The largest net recipient is Poland with 9.5 billion euros, followed by the Czech Republic (5.7 billion), Romania (5.2 billion) and Hungary (4.6 billion). At the same time, some of the same countries have also so far refused to help in the redistribution of a total of 98,000 refugees by September this year. So far only 13,500 refugees have been redistributed within the EU area. Poland which, by now, should have taken in 6,182 aslyum seekers, has not yet received a single person, while the Czech Republic, which was due to accept 2,679 refugees has so far accepted a total of 12 people. Austria for a strong Europe Speaking to "Die Welt" Kern emphasized that he did not want to threaten any of his 27 fellow EU member states but merely wanted to point out connections. "Germany or Austria will struggle to transfer billions to the EU budget if nothing's done about wage and social dumping, and a fair distribution of refugees to all EU countries is deemed impossible," he said. Insisting that his country has an interest in a strong Europe, Kern said: "If Europe is weak, it will also weaken Austria."

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has called for increased pressure on countries shirking their responsibility in the redistribution of refugees. “Solidarity is not a one-way street,” the Social Democrat said of the EU. Ahead of an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern called for increased pressure on countries in the 28-member bloc that continue to fail to ... Read More »

Austrians vote in presidential showdown watched Europe-wide

Austrians have returned to the polls to decide the presidential race between a right-wing populist and his left-leaning rival. The vote is being watched, as a far-right win could boost populist movements in Europe. Voters in Austria headed to the polls on Sunday morning at the end of a bitterly fought campaign between Greens-backed Alexander Van der Bellen (pictured above left) and the anti-migrant Freedom Party (FPÖ) candidate Norbert Hofer (pictured above right). Most polling stations opened at 7 a.m. (0600 UTC) and will close by 5 p.m. on Sunday. Results are expected to arrive later in the evening, but the winner may not be known until absentee ballots are tallied on Monday. Van der Bellen, a former Greens party leader, narrowly won the first run-off election in May when he received 50.3 percent of the vote - less than 31,000 votes ahead of Hofer. The Freedom Party successfully appealed the result by presenting evidence of ballot counting irregularities, winning a repetition of the election. Voter surveys indicate Sunday's race will also be close. With 20 percent fewer postal votes this time around, Hofer might have a slight advantage. Although the presidency in Austria is a mostly ceremonial role, the results are sure to reverberate across Europe, as a win by Hofer could boost other populist, euroskeptic movements in next year's elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands. It would also make Hofer the first far-right elected president since World War II. Hofer's FPÖ party has been leading opinion polls for months and is set to win the next parliamentary election, according to voter surveys. End of a bitter campaign Van der Bellen, a 72-year-old economics professor, is running as an independent although he has the backing of the Greens party. He is a pro-European liberal who aspires to a fence-free "United States of Europe" and is a supporter of gay marriage. He has garnered the support of young Austrians and celebrities, calling for the country to be guided by "reasons not extremes." Hofer, a 45-year-old engineer and gun-enthusiast, has stoked and benefited from a growing sense of unease in Austria over globalization and multiculturalism. In May, he told a young Austrian Muslim on a talk show that Islam "has no place in Austria" as it threatens Austria's Judeo-Christian values. He has also said he wants a "Europe of fatherlands" or a less "centralized" form of the EU. Hofer has also said he would call for a referendum on Austria's EU membership if Turkey joins the bloc or if Brussels takes too much power from member states. Despite its largely ceremonial role, the Austrian constitution grants the president several previously unused powers such as dismissing the government. Austria's vote also comes on the same day as a high-stakes referendum in Italy which will decide the political fate of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. It could also renew chaos in a bloc already rattled by the United Kingdom's June vote to leave the EU and Donald Trump's surprising electoral win in the US.

Austrians have returned to the polls to decide the presidential race between a right-wing populist and his left-leaning rival. The vote is being watched, as a far-right win could boost populist movements in Europe. Voters in Austria headed to the polls on Sunday morning at the end of a bitterly fought campaign between Greens-backed Alexander Van der Bellen (pictured above ... Read More »

UN committee votes to initiate process that would outlaw nuclear weapons

The measure now goes for a vote before the UN General Assembly, probably sometime in early December. A majority of members may vote to support the resolution but Security Council members are expected to block it. A UN General Assembly committee voted overwhelmingly Thursday to support a resolution that would ultimately outlaw nuclear weapons, but many nuclear-armed nations opposed the measure. The disarmament and international security committee saw 123 countries vote in favor of the measure, while 38 opposed it and 16 abstained. Four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom and France- opposed the resolution, while China abstained. Despite the opposition, the measure sponsored by Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa will now head to the full General Assembly, where a vote is expected in December. The resolution calls for convening a conference in March 2017 to negotiate a "legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination." Eliminating nuclear weapons Anti-nuclear groups hailed the landmark vote, in the struggle to eliminate nuclear weapons, said Beatriz Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). "Today's vote demonstrates very clearly that a majority of the world's nations consider the prohibition of nuclear weapons to be necessary, feasible and urgent," Fihn said. "They view it as the most viable option for achieving real progress on disarmament." Fihn acknowledged that the vote is unlikely to persuade nuclear powers to surrender their atomic weapons, but she said it would help stigmatize the weapons in much the same way as has been done with land mines and cluster bombs. Japan, which has long campaigned against the use of nuclear weapons, nonetheless voted against the resolution, as did South Korea, which faces a potentially existential threat from North Korea. In 2009 US President Barack Obama called for the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, but the US is not expected to pursue the effort through the UN. Opponents argued that nuclear disarmament should be addressed through negotiations on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Since 2013 three international conferences have considered the humanitarian impact of the use of nuclear weapons and earlier this year a working group on nuclear disarmament was also convened.

The measure now goes for a vote before the UN General Assembly, probably sometime in early December. A majority of members may vote to support the resolution but Security Council members are expected to block it. A UN General Assembly committee voted overwhelmingly Thursday to support a resolution that would ultimately outlaw nuclear weapons, but many nuclear-armed nations opposed the ... Read More »

Fences and walls along the Balkan route

Austria was instrumental in the closing of the Balkan route six months ago. Now a meeting in Vienna has taken stock of the closure. Germany's chancellor has emphasized common goals, as Barbara Wesel reports from Vienna. It is the third such meeting in Vienna, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has long established herself at the head of the movement: "We have come a long way," compared to the situation a year ago, she summarizes. Back then, she embodied Europe's "welcoming culture": No one talks much about that anymore. Now there are calls for doing "as much as possible to stop illegal immigration." Merkel's Austrian colleagues report that when she addressed the other 11 heads of government at the meeting, the chancellor complained that 50,000 refugees had come to Europe along the Balkan route since February. The border, it seems, has not been sealed well enough. A rather European solution The meeting failed to produce any new insights; only the tone of the leaders' statements seemed to become more unified as it went on. Whereas last year there were serious differences of opinion, this year all emphasized the importance of the 1,000 new EU border patrol agents that are to be deployed as part of the Frontex border management program. Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern added that if external borders could not be protected, states would have to act on their own; that would also apply to Austria. This, he said, would have consequences for businesses, tourists and commuters. Angela Merkel repeatedly emphasized common goals and the success of the EU-Turkey agreement. She sees the agreement as a blueprint for further treaties, especially with countries like Egypt, which has now become the hub for the latest wave of migration to Europe. Pakistan and Afghanistan are also on her list, although talks are barely moving with the two countries. The goal, said the chancellor once again, was to deport all immigrants that will not be allowed to remain in Europe for humanitarian reasons as soon as possible. But the EU is a long way from being able to do that. Criticism of Greece Greece can't do it! Once again, Alexis Tsipras had to listen to a lot of criticism - also from Angela Merkel. Currently, some 60,000 refugees are stuck in Greece, mostly because they cannot be returned to Turkey, the chancellor emphasized. Athens needs more help from the EU. The extremely slow asylum process is in fact compounding the refugee bottleneck on the Greek isles. "Can it remain the case that Greece does not send people back?" asked the Austrian chancellor rhetorically. The Greek prime minister, on the other hand, pointed the finger at the broken promises of the EU member states: 5,000 refugees stand ready to be distributed among other EU states; to date only about 500 have been taken in. Angela Merkel stressed the fact that Germany was prepared to admit several hundred people per month from Italy and Greece. But other EU states must also do their part, she said. Yet there has been very little movement in some countries, Merkel quietly criticized, and none whatsoever in Hungary. Meanwhile, thousands of refugees are also stuck in Macedonia, Serbia and Bulgaria. These countries are none too happy with what the EU has offered them in assistance, either. Several heads of government, especially Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, are calling for more EU support. Hardline EU policy The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, has been increasingly uncompromising in formulating his position: "The Western Balkan route must remain closed for good." Right now, the most important thing for the EU is to protect its exterior borders, said Tusk in Vienna. No more talk of admission and distribution. As has become usual, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban used the Vienna conference as an opportunity to flaunt his anti-refugee rhetoric: He wants to build an enormous refugee camp off the coast of Libya and send all refugees that land in Europe there. He says that total control of the EU's exterior borders must be attained, and that includes controlling the Mediterranean. He continued that anyone fished out of the waters there should simply be dropped off in the new Libyan camp. Orban has firmly established himself in the role of the EU's constant provocateur. Part of that role includes the referendum against the admission of refugees to be held in early October, for which he is busily inciting his country.

Austria was instrumental in the closing of the Balkan route six months ago. Now a meeting in Vienna has taken stock of the closure. Germany’s chancellor has emphasized common goals, as Barbara Wesel reports from Vienna. It is the third such meeting in Vienna, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has long established herself at the head of the movement: “We ... Read More »

Austria postpones presidential election

Voters have complained that they could not seal their ballot forms after Austria was forced to annul last spring's run-off. Opinion polls gave a narrow lead to far-right Norbert Hofer, who barely lost the nixed vote. Austria’s presidential election, originally set for October 2, will be pushed back, Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said on Monday. The decision came after a number of voters planning to vote by mail complained the seals for the ballot forms were faulty. "We are going to request that parliament approves a postponement of the election," said Sobotka. The new round of voting is set to take place on December 4. This was the latest problem to beset the race for Austria’s head of state. While largely a ceremonial role, the election became the subject of intense international interest when it was first contested last spring, as Austria came without 31,000 votes of being the first country in western Europe to elect a far-right leader since World War II. Austria holds presidential elections every six years, and goes to a second-round run off vote if no candidate garners more than 50 percent in the first ballot. Norbert Hofer of the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) came in less than a percentage point behind Green-party affiliated candidate Alexander Van der Bellen in May’s run-off. However, Austria’s highest court annulled that vote in June and called for a new election after it emerged that thousands of absentee ballots had been counted incorrectly. The FPÖ is one of a number of parties in western Europe using anti-immigrant rhetoric to gain steam during the continent’s refugee crisis. It is part of a European parliamentary group chaired by Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front as well as members of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and Britain’s right-wing populist UKIP.

Voters have complained that they could not seal their ballot forms after Austria was forced to annul last spring’s run-off. Opinion polls gave a narrow lead to far-right Norbert Hofer, who barely lost the nixed vote. Austria’s presidential election, originally set for October 2, will be pushed back, Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said on Monday. The decision came after a ... Read More »

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