Close call: Postal votes to make or break far right's success in Austria election

 
Hayley Kirton
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Austria Holds Runoff In Presidential Election
It's going to be a close one: The postal vote will play a pivotal role in Hofer's success at the Austrian election (Source: Getty)

Initial counts for Austria's presidential election indicated a dead heat earlier today, meaning postal votes are likely to play a key role in determining whether the far-right Freedom Party will take power.

The forecast from the SORA institute on behalf of broadcaster ORF, which is based on votes cast in polling stations alongside an estimate of postal votes, indicated that the Freedom Party's Norbert Hofer and the former Greens leader Alexander van der Bellen had pulled in 50 per cent of the vote each.

Meanwhile, the provisional result from the Interior Ministry put Hofer in the lead with 51.9 per cent of the vote, although this forecast does not take into account postal votes, which will not be counted until Monday.

"It is a photo finish, a heart-stopping finale," van der Bellen's campaign manager Lothar Lockl told ORF. "In soccer, you would say that this game is going into extra time."

Meanwhile, Hofer told ORF: "I have been in politics a long time and I have never experienced an election night like this."

The EU's ongoing migrant crisis partly explains why Hofer and the Freedom Party, which has a strong anti-immigration stance, has managed the rack up the support it has. Around 90,000 asylum seekers entered the country last year.

Today's run-off election comes after Hofer claimed 35 per cent of the vote at first round elections, while van der Bellen secured just 21 per cent, back in April.

Heinz Fischer, Austria's current president, is ineligible to run again as he has already served two terms in office.

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