Far-right leader Norbert Hofer ahead in Austria’s presidential vote

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Far-right politician Norbert Hofer is ahead in the preliminary result of Austria’s presidential run-off vote, but the margin is so narrow that some 900,000 postal ballots yet to be counted will determine the outcome.

Hofer, 45, is in the lead with 51.9 percent after all votes cast on Sunday were counted, according to the Federal Interior Ministry. Center-left Alexander Van der Bellen received about 48.1 percent, which means a difference of just 144,006 votes.

With as many as 900,000 postal ballots still to be counted on Monday, the results could go either way if they favor Van der Bellen. Preliminary results from Sunday’s run-off vote showed Hofer in the lead in all regions except for the capital Vienna and the western state of Vorarlberg.

Hofer would be the European Union’s first far-right leader if he were to win the election, coming at a time when security and employment fears over the ongoing refugee crisis have fueled support for the far right. Austria itself took in more than 90,000 asylum seekers last year, which is more than 1% of its population.

The Austrian president plays a largely ceremonial role, with the federal chancellor serving as the de facto chief executive, but the constitution theoretically entrusts great powers to the president, allowing him or her to dissolve parliament, appoint a chancellor or other ministers. and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

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