Austrians are choosing Sunday between a moderate and a populist for president and both candidates are hoping to exploit the Trump effect in the first European Union nation facing such a choice since the US election. Surveys show most Austrians think that populist Norbert Hofer stands to benefit to the detriment of left-leaning candidate Alexander Van der Bellen in the December 4 vote. Whoever wins, the election has significance beyond who will claim the largely ceremonial post. How the Trump bump plays out here could be a barometer of its resonance in other countries with upcoming national elections that also feature strong populist and euroskeptic contenders inspired by the US billionaire's triumph in the US presidential election. French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has welcomed the Trump victory as a "sign of hope," while xenophobe Geert Wilders, who hopes to become prime minister in the Netherlands, has hailed the Trump "revolution." At his hate-speech trial, Wilders described Trump's victory as the start of a movement "making short shrift of the politically correct doctrines of the elite and their subordinate media." "It's about to be proven in Austria," he added. Van der Bellen won the vote earlier this year.
But it is being re-run by a court order on claims by Hofer's Freedom Party of major irregularities, and with Trump's victory still fresh in the minds of Austria's electorate both candidates hope to benefit. Van der Bellen says he hopes that Trump's triumph will serve as a "wake-up call" to vote for him and against Hofer. Hofer, whose support ranges from voters disaffected with the political establishment to the neo-Nazi fringe, greeted the US election result as a victory for democracy, blasting opponents who "wildly berate" Trump. Of 800 Austrian respondents in a Gallup survey with a margin of error of 3.5 per cent, 53 per cent say the Trump victory will benefit Hofer, with only 9 per cent thinking it will help Van der Bellen, and the rest undecided. Potential voters on the streets of Vienna, however, say the "Trump effect" could cut both ways. "I would think it helps Hofer," said Fanny Holzer, 19, and Van der Bellen supporter. "On the other hand, if you consider the nonsense that Trump could do, then maybe Van der Bellen." Others said the US election result has not affected whom they will vote for. "I remain with the choice I made originally," said Leo Ebner, 67. "America is a good distance away from Austria." Anne della Rossa, in her early 40s, said many US voters backed Trump because "people think he will give them something because he is rich." "I don't think he will influence smart Austrians," she added.
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