Italy Isn't The Only European Country Voting This Weekend

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By Adam Button

Austria heads to the polls

All the focus is on the Italian referendum this weekend, but across the Alps, we might get a better idea of the future of Europe.

On Sunday, the Austrian presidential election rerun takes place and pits Green-party-backed candidate Alexander Van der Bellen against far-right populist Norbert Hofer.

Neither are traditional government powers, and they demonstrate how voters have moved away to the centre in splits to the right and left.

Van der Bellen is a 72-year-old who has been a member of the Green Party and National Council since 1994. In the first election, which took place in July, Van der Bellen won, but the result was overturned by the Constitutional Court and a revote ordered. The revote was ordered because votes were improperly counted early and a handful of other electoral rules weren't followed with nearly 76,000 votes potentially tainted.

Hofer had only lost by 30,000 votes, so the court ordered a do-over.

Sunday's election is expected to remain tight, but Hofer has pulled ahead as a favourite. In the nine most recent polls, seven showed him in the lead and only one pointed to a win for Van der Bellen. He has promised to call a referendum on Austria's membership in the EU if there is a further push towards integration. "Sanity instead of extremism" is his campaign slogan.

How does this headline sound for Monday: Europe elects first far-right head of state since 1945.

It's another sign that the open borders, open immigration, open trade era is backtracking. Each populist success emboldens the next country, rather than frightening it.