Austrian president cruises to re-election

April 25, 2010 at 9:45 PM
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VIENNA, April 25 (UPI) -- Austrian President Heinz Fischer coasted to election to a second six-year term Sunday, with exit polls showing he captured 78 percent of the vote.

Far-right candidate Barbara Rosenkranz won barely 15 percent of the vote, The Times of London reported. She had called for lifting a ban on voicing neo-Nazi sentiments, but later retracted the statement, and questioned Austria's laws forbidding denial of the Holocaust.

"Grandma Rosenkranz would have presented a horror show as president of Austria," Wolfgang Fellner, editor of Oesterreich, an Austrian daily newspaper, told the Times.

Rosenkranz's colleague Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the far-right Freedom Party, blamed her poor performance on an "unprecedented media witch-hunt against a very good candidate and her family".

The Times said Strache will seek to shift the party's focus from questioning the law banning Nazi ideology and denial of the Holocaust to resisting immigration by Muslims and East Europeans.

"This was a defeat for Rosenkranz, for the Freedom Party and for its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache," analyst Peter Hajek told The New York Times.

The mainstream conservative party, the Austrian People's Party, along with the center-right People's Party and the Greens, did not field candidates because they believed Fischer couldn't be beaten, The London Times said.

The polling institute ARGE reported only 48.1 percent of those eligible to vote turned out, compared with 71.6 percent in 2004.

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