May 22, 2016
Waiting in Austria
It is somewhat confusing to read news reports about the Austrian election this morning, which has turned into a cliffhanger. The official projections are 50.0 for both candidates - the right-wing populist Norbert Hofer, and the Green Party candidate Alexander Van der Bellen. In terms of the actual vote count, Hofer was ahead - by 51.9% against 48.9% for Van der Bellen. The difference between the two reported results is due to postal votes, which will only be counted today. The 50/50 projections include an estimate of the postal vote, which, on experience, would favour the Greens over the FPÖ. If one includes that projection, Van der Bellen actually is marginally ahead but the difference is now so small - a few thousand votes - that, on the basis of the publicly available information now, there is no way to pick out a winner.
Der Standard notes that Van der Bellen did very well in the urban areas, especially in Vienna. Hofer had been slightly ahead during the campaign, according to unpublished opinion polls. The gap seemed to have increased around the time when Werner Faymann resigned as chancellor, and reduced again when Christian Kern took over as his successor. The implication is that the appointment of Kern as a quasi-political outsider might have satisfied some of the popular demand feeding the anti-establishment vote.
There are already some brave commentators out there, desperate to present their spin on the elections with comments on the split electorate. We think it's best to wait until later today.