It went wrong for Norbert Hofer and the international alliance of right populist and racist groups supporting him, from the U.K.’s Nigel Farage to Czechoslovakian President Vaclaw Klaus, from Marine Le Pen to Viktor Orban, from Italy’s Northern League to the extra-parliamentary far right mobilized en masse in Austria in the hope of electing Hofer to the presidency.
“With him, the country will change course,” the head of the Austrian Identitarian Party Erich Siller told us on Friday in Vienna. “We will stop the Islamization of Austria and Europe, and we will defend our country.”
It didn’t happen. Western Europe won’t get its first extreme right president just yet. They took a resounding defeat, resulting in an even more optimistic outcome: The new president of Austria is Alexander Van der Bellen, first Green president in Europe. The candidates of the Social Democratic government party (SPOe) and the Popular Party (OeVP) had been eliminated in the first round.
In the Lower Austrian village of Ernsdorf, one family of Afghan refugees breathed a sigh of relief Sunday morning. They had been expelled from Croatia, then sent back to Austria thanks to the efforts of volunteers. They told us, “if Hofer wins, we would not be able to defend the asylum seekers we are currently supporting, they will be expelled en masse.”