Polls opened this morning for the presidential election re-run in Austria and a constitutional referendum in Italy, both of which are being seen as significant opportunities for Europe’s anti-establishment insurgent parties, with right-wing populists enjoying a good chance to prevail in both.
Both polls have already caused significant regret for the European left, with significant potential fallout for the European Union dependent on result.
In Italy, voters are being asked for a single yes-or-no vote on a series of complicated constitutional changes proposed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, but the plebiscite has taken on far more meaning than just the streamlining of the political and electoral systems.
The vote has, for many, become a referendum on Renzi himself, who has said he will resign if the measure fails. The chopping-block aspect of the vote is heightened by the near-incomprehensibility of the many measures contained in the single document, many of which are intricate and obtuse.
The risk of political instability has triggered market reaction before the vote, with bank stocks sinking and the borrowing costs on sovereign debt rising.
Should Mr. Renzi be forced to stand down by failing to carry his referendum, a snap general election could see prominent ‘no’ campaign backer Beppe Grillo and his Eurosceptic Five Star Movement form a government. Recent polls have shown him to be leading in the country, and his victory would likely see Italy voting in another referendum — this time to leave the European Union.
Meanwhile in Austria, whichever way the vote goes the nation has no chance of their new president coming from a mainstream party. The two traditional centre left and right parties which have controlled Austrian politics for decades were knocked out in the first round of voting in April, leaving Norbert Hofer of the anti-mass migration, Eurosceptic Freedom Party and former green party leader Alexander Van Der Bellen in the running.
While Mr. Van Der Bellen took the second round in May by a few thousand votes — a fraction of a percent of those cast — revelations over vote tampering and poorly handled postal ballots led to the nation’s high court ordering a re-run. It found the number of potentially contaminated votes in that contest was higher than the margin of victory.
Mr. Hofer is campaigning to secure Austria’s borders and has mooted the country joining the conservative Visegrad group of nations. Present members Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Czechia have formed the vanguard of nations in Europe opposing Brussels directives on mass migration and resettlement.
He has said he would support a referendum on Austrian membership of the European Union if the bloc continued the process to admit Turkey.
As reported by Breitbart London, a planned protest against Mr. Hofer in Vienna yesterday fell flat, with the number of press who turned up to cover the march outnumbering those actually protesting. While pollsters have said the contest is too close to call, bookmakers have slashed odds on Mr. Hofer, making him the clear favourite.
First results from the Austrian election are expected around 1800 GMT, with a preliminary result in the evening. A certified result will follow on Monday. Results for the Italian referendum are not expected until Monday.
AFP contributed to this report