The Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) has failed in its bid to win the presidency following a shock pivot towards the EU by candidate Norbert Hofer.
The former engineer had previously argued that: “If the answer to Brexit [is] a centralised European Union, where the national parliaments are disempowered and where the union is governed like a state … we would have to hold a referendum in Austria.”
EU leaders have given every indication that they intend to follow exactly such a course since the British vote to leave on June 23rd. Indeed, the presidents of Germany, France, and Italy chose a warship anchored near the burial place of EU founding father Altiero Spinelli as the site of their first major summit following the referendum, and used the opportunity to announce advanced plans for an EU army.
However, when Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage welcomed Hofer’s pledge as a sign that the “political revolutions” in Great Britain and the United States where heading to Austria, the presidential hopeful capitulated immediately to the Europhile press, urging the former UKIP supremo “not to interfere”.
An EU referendum “is not something I want”, he declared, even going so far as to proclaim his desire for “a stronger union”.
Hofer had been seen as a strong anti-establishment candidate, coming within 30,000 votes of the presidency when the race was first run in May. Prior to his reverse ferret on the EU, pollsters had tipped him as the hot favourite to win Sunday’s vote – a re-run of the original race which was ordered by the courts after “serious” vote fraud cast doubts on the legitimacy of the result.
Left-leaning commentators beyond Austria, caught unawares by Brexit and stunned by Donald Trump’s decisive victory in the U.S. presidential elections, have claimed that Hofer’s defeat was a reversal for the wider anti-globalist movement.
However, it seems likely that enthusiasm for the FPÖ contender as a Eurosceptic ‘change’ candidate will have been dampened significantly by his sudden and unexpected move to fall in line with the prevailing political orthodoxy on the EU, robbing him of the anti-establishment momentum which delivered the Brexit result and carried Trump to the White House.
Austria’s presidency will now go Hofer’s opponent, Alexander Van der Bellen, a Green-backed independent noted for his strong pro-immigration stance, support for open borders activists, and stress on Austria’s “obligations” to the 90,000 migrants who have recently entered the country.
This influx has caused substantial hardship for the existing population, with the case of a ten-year-old boy raped by a migrant who claimed he was suffering from a “sexual emergency” achieving international notoriety.
The migrant’s conviction was later quashed in a shock decision by the Supreme Court, which felt prosecutors had failed to demonstrate that the migrant knew the schoolboy was unwilling.