Austria could elect the European Union's first far-right head of state, with support for Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer on the rise after he took the lead in the first round last month. Nathan Frandino reports.
Polls are open in Austria where voters could elect the European Union's first far-right head of state. Norbert Hofer of the euroskeptic, anti-immigration Freedom Party won the first round of voting last month and is poised to take on the country's political establishment. Hofer is known as the gentler face of his party but still faces skeptics in the country. After casting his ballot, he was asked by a reporter what he would say to those who call him a Nazi. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AUSTRIA'S FREEDOM PARTY CANDIDATE, NORBERT HOFER, SAYING (REPLYING TO REPORTER'S QUESTION "WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THOSE (WHO CALL YOU A NAZI?): "I am not, because you will see. You have to take a look at me when I am in one or two years. I have to work and then everybody will see I am really okay. I am not a dangerous person, of course." Support for him and his party is taking off alongside the migration crisis, which has heightened fears about employment and security. Austria took in 90,000 asylum seekers last year but has since clamped down. Opinion polls suggest the run-off between Hofer and his opponent, independent Alexander van der Bellen, will be close. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AUSTRIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, ALEXANDER VAN DER BELLEN, SAYING: "I'm fairly optimistic, but we will only know in the evening, perhaps Monday evening, because of the additional votes that have to be counted. But I'm fairly optimistic." Polls close at 5 p.m. local time., but whoever wins, it is likely to be a new high-water mark for Austria's and Europe's far right.