SPOTLIGHT: AUSTRIAN LESSONS
European leaders are wiping sweat from their collective brow. Once the final votes were counted late yesterday, Austria's ecologically-minded independent Alexander Van der Bellen had edged far-right Freedom party candidate Norbert Hofer in the country's presidential election. Had he won, Hofer would have been the first far-right European head of state since the end of Nazism. "Relief at seeing the Austrians reject populism and extremism. Each of us needs to learn lessons from that in Europe," tweeted French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Austrian dailyKronen Zeitung quoted the president-elect as striking a conciliatory note, saying that "together we will work to reveal Austria's beauty."
Though in Austria the president's role is largely ceremonial, the closeness of the vote is just one more symptom of a worrying rise in Western public opinion of nationalistic, anti-immigrant populism. "Established parties everywhere face electorates impatient for solutions to problems, like the refugee crisis and unemployment, whose scale is unprecedented in modern times," wrote British daily The Guardian in an editorial following the results in Vienna. From France's Front National to Denmark's People's Party to Greece's Golden Dawn, and right up to the words coming out of Trump Tower, the message is the same: reinforce the borders, save the homeland...and don't be shy anymore about saying it loud and clear. For Europe, in particular, the next election day to gauge the effects of this sentiment is slated for June 23: the UK referendum on whether to remain in the European Union. Polls show that this race, like the one in Austria, may come down to the final vote.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY
- American comic legend Bill Cosby arrives in court to face sexual assault allegations.
- Euro zone's finance ministers expected to OK 10 million euros in new loans to Greece.