Presidential power tantalizingly close for Austria’s far-right

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VIENNA: All eyes will be on Austria this weekend when it could become the first European Union member to install a far-right president, as the influence of populist parties spreads across the bloc. A crisis-packed year, fueled by the refugee crisis and rising unemployment, has left the nation deeply polarized and pushed disgruntled voters away from traditional parties toward fringe groups. The rift has found expression in Sunday’s tense runoff, which sees 45-year-old Norbert Hofer of the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPOe) running against the Green-backed economics professor Alexander van der Bellen, 72. In last month’s first round, Hofer—a partially paralyzed gun enthusiast who is described as the FPOe’s “friendly face”—comfortably beat his rival by 35 percent to 21 percent.

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