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Austria could soon elect the EU’s first far-right president

A presidential runoff in Austria is pitting two men with with diametrically opposed views. Norbert Hoefer is running on an anti-immigration platform and could become the European Union’s first far-right head of state. His opponent, Alexander Van Der Bellen, supports admitting immigrants. Reporter Zeke Turner of The Wall Street Journal joins Alison Stewart from Vienna to discuss the race.

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  • ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:

    Today's president election runoff in Austria pitted two men with diametrically opposed views. Norbert Hofer of the nationalist anti-immigration Freedom Party finished first in the first round last month. If Hofer should win, he'd be Austria's and the E.U.'s first far right head of state.

    He's opposed by former Green Party leader Alexander Van der Bellen, who supports admitting refugees.

    Hofer had a small lead in what has been a very close race but their absentee ballots still to be counted, with the outcome expected tomorrow. Earlier, I talk about this election with reporter Zeke Turner of "The Wall Street Journal", who joined me via Skype from Austria's capital, Vienna.

    Why is it that the centrists were knocked out so early in that first round of voting? What's going on that you have such candidates that are such polar opposites?

  • ZEKE TURNER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:

    This is sort of a question that's also echoing in Germany right now, in this part of the world, they make what's called the "Grand Coalition", which is when the two big parties from the left and right of center get together, and sometimes they drag each other into sort of political no man's lands.

    For example, the center left chancellor Werner Faymann, he followed Angela Merkel's refugee policy and suddenly, people are walking, they come through Austria, and at a certain point, get to change course and do an about-face and talk about border controls and caps. And this is what I mean by no man's land. It's hard to trust politicians when they're operating in this "Grand Coalition" context.

    Whereas people from the far right, they come with a certain specific standpoint. I mean, in the case of Norbert Hofer, the candidate here, he's talked about shooting refugees at the border. He has a strong emphasis on security. He refers to refugees and rapists and people fighting for the Islamic State in the same breath, and that's something that's just a clear message for voters.

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