Austria’s presidential vote kicks off amid refugee concerns

Vienna, April 24 (IANS) Austria’s presidential elections kicked off on Sunday as both candidates from the mainstream parties are under huge pressure due to migration concerns.

The latest poll showed that the leading runners are Norbert Hofer of the far-right, anti-migrant Freedom Party, and Alexander van der Bellen backed by the Green party.

Since 1945, the Social Democrats and the centre-right People’s Party have dominated the Austrian government. The incumbent Austrian chancellor and president are both from the Social Democrats, Xinhua news agency reported.

No candidate is expected to get a majority in Sunday’s vote. But according to the poll, neither the candidate of the Social Democrats nor the People’s Party could make it into a run-off on May 22.

The winner will replace Heinz Fischer who has served as the president of Austria for the past 12 years. The Austrian president has a limited power in the country’s domestic affairs.

There might be a new president who is not supported by the mainstream parties for the first time.

Austria, a small country in central Europe, is affected by the slow growth of the world economy and the migrants crisis.

The approval ratings for the ruling parties have been sliding for years whereas public support for the far-right Freedom Party has been rising since the country’s regional election last year.

According to a latest survey from market research institute IMASA, 72 percent of the Austrians agreed with the stricter stance their government has adopted over the asylum crisis, calling for the closure of the Balkans migrant route as well as increased border controls.

Austria is the last stop to Germany for the migrants through the Balkan countries. The country has introduced border control policies against a new wave of migrants. Migrant policy is a major public concern influencing the voters.



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