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Austria’s election marathon starts on Sunday

April 24, 2016, 8:37 UTC+3 VIENNA

The winner will replace Heinz Fischer who has been in office for the past 12 years

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© AP Photo/Ronald Zak

VIENNA, April 24 /TASS/. Austrians are electing a new president on Sunday. The winner will replace Heinz Fischer who has been in office for the past 12 years. The past few years have seen a drastic decrease of confidence in the ruling parties. That has left no chance to their candidates not only to win, but even to make it to the second round. According to public opinion polls held in mid-April, only three presidential candidates out of the official six who are going to take part in the race have a real chance to get into the presidential chair.

They include Alexander Van de Bellen, a descendant of a nobleman from Russia’s Pskov province and the former leader of Austrian Greens; Irmgard Griss, the former chairperson of Austria’s Supreme Court, and Norbert Hofer, a candidate from the right-wing populist Austrian Freedom Party.

The president has limited powers in Austria, which is a parliamentary republic. He appoints the country’s chancellor on the basis of results of parliamentary elections and offers him to form a cabinet of ministers; appoints ministers, represents the state in the international arena; signs state treaties and is the commander-in-chief of the Austrian army. But the president has practically no influence on legislative bodies of power and government activities.

Austrian public opinion research centers believe that the president is unlikely to be elected today and that the second round will be necessary because none of the candidates will gain the support of at least half of the voters. According to the SORA public opinion foundation, only the three aforesaid candidates have real chances to make it to the second round.

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