Austrian presidential election too close to call, poll suggests

Reuters , Friday 29 Apr 2016

Alexander Van der Bellen
Former head of the Green Party Alexander Van der Bellen addresses a news conference after he announced to run for President in the 2016 Austrian presidential election in Vienna, Austria, January 10, 2016 (Photo: AFP)

Austria's presidential race between an independent and a far-right candidate who secured a record share of the vote in the first round is too close to call, an opinion poll published on Friday showed.

The Gallup poll for tabloid daily Oesterreich showed both candidates on 50 percent, but with a margin of error of 5.4 percentage points and based on a small sample of 400 people.

The run-off election will be held on May 22.

Far-right Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer unexpectedly garnered 35 percent of the vote in the first round on Sunday. Polls before the election had regularly shown him running second on less than 25 percent.

Former Greens leader Alexander van der Bellen, who is standing as an independent, came second in the first round with 21 percent of the vote. Opinion polls had showed him as the front-runner, but the gap with Hofer narrowed in the closing stages.

Austria's President is a largely ceremonial figure but can play an important role in the formation of governments and has the power to dismiss the cabinet. The President is also head of the neutral country's armed forces.

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