Austria’s Far-Right May Live to See Another Day

Austria's far-right won a case that will allow them to contest the results of last month's presidential election.

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - MAY 22: Norbert Hofer, presidential candidate of the right-wing populist Austrian Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Oesterreichs, or FPOe), greets supporters at the FPOe election party following initial poll results during Austrian presidential elections on May 22, 2016 in Vienna, Austria. The FPOe is facing off against the Austrian Green Party and its presidential candidate, Alexander Van der Bellen. The FPOe's recent success is part of a larger trend across Europe in which right-wing parties have gained ground, in part due to public unease over the large influx of refugees and migrants over the past year and a half. (Photo by Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images)
VIENNA, AUSTRIA - MAY 22: Norbert Hofer, presidential candidate of the right-wing populist Austrian Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Oesterreichs, or FPOe), greets supporters at the FPOe election party following initial poll results during Austrian presidential elections on May 22, 2016 in Vienna, Austria. The FPOe is facing off against the Austrian Green Party and its presidential candidate, Alexander Van der Bellen. The FPOe's recent success is part of a larger trend across Europe in which right-wing parties have gained ground, in part due to public unease over the large influx of refugees and migrants over the past year and a half. (Photo by Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images)
VIENNA, AUSTRIA - MAY 22: Norbert Hofer, presidential candidate of the right-wing populist Austrian Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Oesterreichs, or FPOe), greets supporters at the FPOe election party following initial poll results during Austrian presidential elections on May 22, 2016 in Vienna, Austria. The FPOe is facing off against the Austrian Green Party and its presidential candidate, Alexander Van der Bellen. The FPOe's recent success is part of a larger trend across Europe in which right-wing parties have gained ground, in part due to public unease over the large influx of refugees and migrants over the past year and a half. (Photo by Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images)

Apparently Britain’s controversial vote last Thursday to leave the European Union wasn’t quite enough summer drama for the increasingly fractured bloc.

Last month, after far-right Austrian Norbert Hofer narrowly lost his country’s presidential election, he complained that the process was so flawed that he deserved a second chance. And on Friday, Austria’s highest court gave him what he asked for and ordered a runoff election that will likely take place in September or October.

Like those who campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party  gained much of its support on anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic platform. Unlike Britain’s leave campaign, Austria’s nationalist movement didn’t succeed at the ballot box, losing by the tiny margin of only 30,863 votes. According to their camp, that loss was due to widespread election fraud and general mismanagement of absentee ballots. Although Austria’s Constitutional Court admitted Friday that some election rules were broken in May, the decision did not state whether or not the election mismanagement actually influenced the outcome of the vote. For Hofer, the runoff election will be a chance to try to prove that it did.

Apparently Britain’s controversial vote last Thursday to leave the European Union wasn’t quite enough summer drama for the increasingly fractured bloc.

Last month, after far-right Austrian Norbert Hofer narrowly lost his country’s presidential election, he complained that the process was so flawed that he deserved a second chance. And on Friday, Austria’s highest court gave him what he asked for and ordered a runoff election that will likely take place in September or October.

Like those who campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party  gained much of its support on anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic platform. Unlike Britain’s leave campaign, Austria’s nationalist movement didn’t succeed at the ballot box, losing by the tiny margin of only 30,863 votes. According to their camp, that loss was due to widespread election fraud and general mismanagement of absentee ballots. Although Austria’s Constitutional Court admitted Friday that some election rules were broken in May, the decision did not state whether or not the election mismanagement actually influenced the outcome of the vote. For Hofer, the runoff election will be a chance to try to prove that it did.

“The decision I am announcing today has no winner and no loser, it has only one aim: to strengthen trust in the rule of law and democracy,” said Gerhard Holzinger, head of the Constitutional Court, when he made the decision public in Vienna on Friday.

Hofer called Friday’s decision a “difficult” one, but said that he has great faith in Austria’s rule of law. And Alexander Van der Bellen, the pro-EU Austrian Green Party candidate who took home the win last month, sounded unfazed by the court’s decision Friday. “Austria needs to be well represented in Europe and the world,” he told reporters after Holzinger’s announcement. “If we can do it once, we can do it again.”

If Hofer were to secure a win in the runoff, he would be the only far-right leader in an EU country, prompting fears he would also seek a referendum to remove Austria from the soon to be 27-state bloc. There are also fears he might be the first, but not the last, such figure: in France, support for Marine Le Pen continues to grow, leading to speculation she could one day lead the country. Le Pen has already called for France to hold a referendum, modeled on the British one, about leaving the EU.

Hofer’s Freedom Party was established by former Nazis and other right-wing Austrians in the 1950s, and his election campaign coincided with a surge in migrant and refugee arrivals in Austria, where some 90,000 have sought asylum in the past year, and close to a million others have passed through on their way to Germany.

Photo credit: Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images

More from Foreign Policy

A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed  according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.
A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.

Why Do People Hate Realism So Much?

The school of thought doesn’t explain everything—but its proponents foresaw the potential for conflict over Ukraine long before it erupted.

Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.
Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.

China’s Crisis of Confidence

What if, instead of being a competitor, China can no longer afford to compete at all?

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.

Why This Global Economic Crisis Is Different

This is the first time since World War II that there may be no cooperative way out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.

China Is Hardening Itself for Economic War

Beijing is trying to close economic vulnerabilities out of fear of U.S. containment.