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Hofer Says He May Back EU Referendum in Austria

Austrian populist Norbert Hofer has said he would back a referendum on his country’s European Union membership if the political bloc becomes more centralised, or if Turkey joins.

In an interview with the BBC, the Freedom Party candidate for President said while a vote for him would not necessarily be a vote for Austria leaving the EU – or Öxit – he may be tempted to support a referendum.

Speaking ahead of the rescheduled second round of the Austrian presidential election, Mr Hofer said if the EU were to approve Turkish membership, he would support a vote on whether Austria should stay in the union.

The same applies if the EU tries to grab more powers after Brexit.

“If the answer to Brexit would be to make a centralised European Union, where the national parliaments are disempowered and where the union is governed like a state. In this case, we would have to hold a referendum in Austria, because it would lead to a constitutional change,” Mr Hofer said.

Asked by the BBC whether people are “afraid” of his conservative, populist agenda, he responded: “I’m not a right-wing man, I would say I’m a middle-right man, and I don’t think people are really afraid. They are not.”

Mr Hofer is currently narrowly ahead of rival Alexander van der Bellen in the polls. He had been defeated in an election in May, but the vote was overturned by the Austrian High Court, who ruled that rules on postal ballots had been broken.

The re-run was initially scheduled for October, but has been pushed back to the start of December after authorities claimed they needed more time to resolve the issues.

Mr Hofer said he was feeling confident of victory this time:

“It is something I feel when I’m on my tour through Austria. The people are very friendly, they are talking about safety, jobs, unemployment, the economy. There is a lot of hope there.”

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