Austrians head to the polls on Sunday to pick their next chancellor

World Today

Austrians head to the polls on Sunday to pick their next chancellor.

During the race, the far right Freedom Party has shifted the debate.

CGTN’s Guy Henderson reports from Vienna.

Follow Guy Henderson on Twitter @guyhendersonde

30-years-old and on course to become Austria’s next Chancellor.

Sebastian Kurz’s conservative Peoples’ Party has blunted a challenge from the far right – by stealing their thunder on immigration.

“I can promise today that we will do everything to end the misuse, and the immigration into our social systems, so only the ones who really need them can benefit from them. And I can also promise today that we will end illegal migration to achieve more order and security in Austria.”

The populists still go further – the Freedom Party’s final rally took place in the heart of a Viennese high street full of Muslims, who went about their business – as candidate Heinz-Christian Strache singled them out:

“Sebastian Kurz said that Islam is part of Austria. No, Islam is not a part of Austria.”

Similar language brought the FPO within a whisker of the presidency last December.

The man who led that campaign denies such language is extreme.

To moderates – that’s exactly what the FPO are though – and they’re favorites to finish runner-up.

The Freedom Party has a decent chance of sharing power with Kurz – that’d be another blow to Europe’s liberal order. Which isolated the FPO last time it made it into government more than a decade ago. That’d be far less likely this time round.

Austrian politics has already shifted to the right; on Sunday, we’ll find out how far.