Left wing Austrian presidential candidate Alexander Van der Bellen has called his populist opponent Norbert Hofer and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump “demagogues” in an apparent bid boost his lagging poll numbers.
Referring to leader of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) Hofer, van der Bellen said: “I do not want Austria to be the first Western European country to be taken over by the power of the legal demagogue,” and called on Austrians to fight them, reports Die Presse.
Van der Bellen also warned if Hofer took the presidency, he would preside over a potential future FPO government led by party leader Heinz-Christian Strache. He claimed this would be a disaster for Austria.
He said the Trump victory was a “shock” and echoed the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying that Trump has to live up to democratic values and cooperate with Europe on the world stage. Mr. Van der Bellen added that the Trump campaign painted a “picture of an isolationist orientation”.
The reaction from the anti-mass migration FPÖ and the Hofer campaign was heavy criticism for the statements made by the former Green party leader. FPÖ MP Herbert Kickl said the left-wing candidate was acting “like an elephant in the diplomatic china shop”. He went on to add: “A Federal President Van der Bellen would mean that Austria is heading for a diplomatic ice age with the USA.”
As the almost year long campaign comes to a final conclusion after the initial vote was annulled among accusations of vote rigging and the new election delayed due to faulty postal ballots, some see the so-called “Trump-effect” swaying voters in the direction of Norbert Hofer. Recent polls released on November 5th already showed a lead for Hofer between 2 to 4 per cent, which could grow as experts predict Hofer may be emboldened to speak his mind and campaign harder after seeing the effect such tactics had for President-elect Trump.
Austria, Presidential Election, AKonsult poll:
— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) November 5, 2016
Van der Bellen sees the Trump victory in a different light believing that he can motivate his own supporters to overcome the lead currently enjoyed by Hofer. Polling numbers show very few voters switching their vote from the last election and many experts believe the vote, like in May, will come down to the wire.
As Van der Bellen tries to rally his supporters Mr. Hofer has been visiting European leaders in the Czech Republic and in Serbia where he has expressed a desire for further cooperation between Austria and its neighbours to help deal with the migrant crisis and build stronger economic ties.