Austria is a short step frombecoming the first European Union country to elect a far-righthead of state, the result of mounting angst about livingstandards and Europe’s migrant crisis triggering more than100,000 asylum requests.
The anti-Islam and eurosceptic Freedom Party (FPO) grabbedmore than a third of the vote in the first round of presidentialelections on April 24.
The second round is on Sunday, pitting FPO candidate NorbertHofer against independent Alexander van der Bellen, a formerGreens party leader.
The two emerged after trouncing the governing SocialDemocrats (SPO) and their conservative coalition partners, triggering a party revolt that toppled SPO Chancellor WernerFaymann last week and hoisted railways boss Christian Kern tothe chancellery.
Austria’s president traditionally plays a largely ceremonialrole but swears in the chancellor, can dismiss the cabinet andis commander in chief of the military
A Gallup poll for the Oesterreich newspaper last weekendfound Hofer ahead by a 53-47 margin based on 600 peoplesurveyed. But it was a dead heat among those who said they werecertain to vote, a key factor after nearly a third of eligiblevoters failed to cast ballots in the first round.
The two have exchanged bitter attacks in the run-up to thedecisive vote that comes amid right-wing gains across Europe.
Hofer, 45, has called van der Bellen a ‘fascist Greendictator’ for saying as president he would block any governmentled by anti-Europe FPO boss Heinz-Christian Strache.