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European Populist Candidates to Benefit from ‘Trump Effect’

The next two major European elections in Austria and France may see victories for populist, nationalist candidates thanks to the historic U.S. presidential victory of Donald Trump.

Norbert Hofer in Austria and Marine Le Pen in France, who share the same views on mass migration and secure borders, and both are running for the presidency of their native countries in coming months. At one time considered outsiders with little chance of winning, events like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump are quickly changing the opinion of observers who now see them as legitimate threats to the establishment, reports Der Tagesspiegel.

In France, the migrant crisis and the severe unpopularity of Socialist president François Hollande have led to the rise of Front National leader Marine Le Pen.  The impact of the Trump presidential win has caused some, like former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, to claim: “Reason no longer prevails since Brexit. Mrs. Le Pen can win in France.”

Academics like professor Jean Petaux of Sciences Po Bordeaux university said the result demonstrates the limitation of election predictions based on polling, and suggested that in future polls should be taken with a “big pinch of salt”.

Another effect of the Trump victory is a new confidence of Front National supporters to publicly declare their support. Law professor at Sarre university Philippe Cossalter stated: “Very few people hesitate to say they’ll vote for Marine Le Pen these days.”

In Austria, the presidential campaign will come to an end next month.  Norbert Hofer, the candidate of the anti-mass migration Freedom Party (FPÖ), has the most to gain from the ‘Trump effect’. Though early polls have shown Hofer with a slight lead over his opponent, former Green party leader Alexander Van Der Bellen, pollsters and political scientists believe that the U.S. election could allow Hofer to “take off the gloves”.

Political consultant Wolfgang Bachmayer believes that the Trump victory will allow Mr. Hofer the confidence to use stronger rhetoric against his opponent. Mr. Bachmeyer stated that Trump was successful because of his often sharply critical statements and many voters respected him for speaking his mind.

Hofer, according to Bachmeyer, may use the momentum of Trump to propel his campaign. Hofer may attempt to model the president-elect and show voters that if Trump can win after being disregarded by polling companies, the media, and the establishment, then he can as well.

The Austrian presidential election is scheduled for the 4th of December, and will mark the end of a presidential campaign that was intended to be settled in May, but was annulled due to voting irregularities and then further delayed due to faulty ballots.

The French election will take place in April for the first round and the second round will decide the results in May. Most pollsters predict Ms. Le Pen to easily win the first round but may be a tougher challenge in the second.

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