THE BLOG

Will Brexit Breathe New Life Into Austria's Far Right?

The third President of the National Council and far right FPOe presidential candidate Norbert Hofer attends a press conferenc
The third President of the National Council and far right FPOe presidential candidate Norbert Hofer attends a press conference on the annulation of the last presidential election on July 1, 2016, in Vienna. Austria's highest court on July 1 annulled May's presidential election result following a legal challenge from the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), whose candidate lost by a narrow margin, citing irregularities. Before the new election, current President Heinz Fischer will still step down as planned and will be replaced on an interim basis by three parliamentary officials -- one of whom is Hofer. / AFP / APA / HELMUT FOHRINGER / Austria OUT (Photo credit should read HELMUT FOHRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

Austria will re-run its presidential elections on October 2, and this round is likely to draw more blood than the first.

Far-right eurosceptic candidate Norbert Hofer's team has not stopped campaigning. The constitutional court's decision to overturn the results of the presidential elections held in May and Hofer's narrow defeat have kept the far right's hopes alive.

Hofer recently received another piece of good news. After Austria's current president, Heinz Fischer, steps down from his post on July 8, Hofer will be one of three national assembly leaders who together will take over presidential operations on a temporary basis. His chief rival, the Green-backed Alexander Van der Bellen, does not have a spot on the committee and thus does not figure among the interim leadership. This is a clear advantage for the Freedom party (FPÖ) politician.

The Brexit referendum was a warning: Populists can win elections, with brutal consequences.

Van der Bellen's team will have to fight even harder now. The Brexit referendum was a warning: Populists can win elections, with brutal consequences. The UK's departure from the EU "might become a topic in the Austrian election campaign," Van der Bellen warned last week.

Following the elections in May, a feeling of relief swept across Berlin, Paris and Brussels. The independent candidate had -- narrowly -- defeated the far-right FPÖ candidate.

There was a sense that a crisis had been averted. Austria had voted against a right-wing populist who could have fired the government, decided to leave the EU, and whose success may have strengthened other far-right factions across the continent.

It was the end of a grueling election campaign, which Europe was eagerly watching as if it were a match in the Euro 2016.

For Hofer's team, however, it wasn't over. They didn't stop fighting. They disputed the election results, a move to which most liberals responded with laughter and indignation.

It has become clear that anti-refugee sentiment can attract votes -- and so can EU resentment.

The left is no longer laughing. But the FPÖ had every right to take this to court. Moreover, anything other than re-elections would have been undemocratic, and therefore subject to appeal.

The FPO, it seems, can't wait to step into the ring again. The first election campaign has already created a deep divide in the country, and the populists will just pick up where they have left off.

During the May elections, Hofer performed best in rural areas, while Van der Bellen dominated in a majority of Austria's main cities. Hofer also rallied substantial support among manual workers, while more white-collar workers voted for Van der Bellen.

After the first campaign, it has become clear that anti-refugee sentiment can attract votes -- and so can EU resentment.

The last election divided the public, and the upcoming elections could divide Austria even deeper.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Germany. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.