Absentee Votes to Decide Austria Election

Absentee Votes to Decide Austria ElectionAbsentee Votes to Decide Austria Election

Direct ballots have been counted but absentee votes are still to come from Austria’s runoff vote for a president.

Far-right leader Norbert Hofer and former Greens politician, Alexander Van der Bellen, are neck and neck.

The direct votes gave rightwinger Norbert Hofer 51.9% to 48.1% for Alexander Van der Bellen, a Greens politician running as an independent.

Nearly 700,000 absentee ballots are still to be counted Monday, making them the likely decider following the 4.48 million people who voted directly on Sunday, AFP reported.

Final projections that included the still-to-be-counted absentee ballots put each candidate at 50%, with Van der Bellen narrowly ahead.

While the presidential role is mainly ceremonial, there are key powers within the constitution that give the president the right to sack the government and to dissolve parliament.

The final results are due at the earliest on Monday evening.

Hofer’s Freedom Party wants to close the landlocked country’s borders and campaigns consistently on strong anti-European Union sentiment.

In moderating his comments on Sunday, Hofer was reported to have told foreign reporters that he was “really OK,” and “not a dangerous person”.

Hofer has threatened to dismiss Austria’s government coalition of the Social Democrats and the People’s Party if it fails to do a better job. He has presented himself as the final arbiter of how the government is performing.

Van der Bellen’s supporters back liberal refugee policies and a strong, unified EU. As he went to vote on Sunday, he was asked what differentiated him from his opponent: “I think I’m pro-European and there are some doubts as far as Mr. Hofer is concerned.”

Van der Bellen said he would not swear in a Freedom Party chancellor—even if the party won the next elections, which are due within two years.