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Far-right wins first round in Austria

BBC News BBC News 25/04/2016
Alexander Van der Bellen at a polling station in Vienna. Photo: 24 April 2016: Alexander Van der Bellen is an independent candidate backed by the Greens © Reuters Alexander Van der Bellen is an independent candidate backed by the Greens

Austria's far-right Freedom Party candidate has come top in the first round of presidential elections, preliminary results show.

Norbert Hofer has about 36% of the votes for the mostly ceremonial role - not enough to avoid a run-off in May.

He is likely to face Alexander Van der Bellen, an independent contender backed by the Greens, who is polling 20%.

For the first time since World War Two, the candidates from Austria's two main parties did not make it to the run-off.

Rudolf Hundstorfer from the Social Democrats and the centre-right People's Party Andreas Kohl are each thought to have taken about 11% of the vote.

Both parties have governed Austria for decades - either alone or in coalition.

This is a big shake-up in Austrian politics, the BBC's Bethany Bell in Vienna reports, as the country has had a president from the centre-left or centre-right since 1945.

The clear victory of the far-right candidate reflects widespread discontent with the status quo, as well as concerns about immigration and the economy, our correspondent says.

Support for the Social Democrats and the People's Party has been falling in recent years.

In the last general elections in 2013, the two parties won just enough votes to govern in a "grand coalition"

If no candidate secures a majority of the votes in the first round of the presidential elections, the run-off will be held on 22 May.

Incumbent President Heinz Fischer, 77, cannot run again after two terms in office.

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