Europe

Media mull "split" in society after Austria vote

Screen grab from Kurier.at website Image copyright kurier.at
Image caption Austrian newspaper Kurier's headline reads "The country is not divided, it is diverse"

Media outlets in Austria and elsewhere have been pondering what the near-victory of far-right candidate Norbert Hofer in the presidential election tells us about the state of Austrian society.

German papers call for the established parties to learn lessons, while a French paper reflects on what the Austrian election means for France's own far-right.

For the Austrian news website News.at, the hair's-breadth victory of Green candidate Alexander Van der Bellen shows that "Austria remains a deeply divided country".

Noting that the split in support for the two men occurred mainly along town/country lines, the site says that "the election results in urban and rural areas seem to come from two different planets".

An editorial in Austrian daily Die Presse takes a sober view of the outcome, saying that "being the runner-up in the election represents a huge success for Mr Hofer and the Austrian Freedom Party" and that "anyone who has already voted for Hofer once, might do it again more easily at a national election."

The paper warns Mr Van der Bellen that his victory gives him "no grounds for rejoicing".

Media "hyperventilating"

At least one Austrian paper challenges the description of the country as divided.

A commentary by Walter Haemmerle in the Wiener Zeitung accuses the media of "hyperventilating" over the alleged split, saying "everyone talks about the country being divided, but it unites us much more than it divides us."

Image copyright BBC Monitoring
Image caption Kleine Zeitung headline reads "He wants to be president for both halves" whilst Der Standard says "31,026 votes decided the election"

Several papers in Germany say there are lessons to be learned from the closeness of the result.

"Half of Austria breathes a sigh of relief," notes a commentary in Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

But the daily warns that Mr Van der Bellen's victory may be a Pyrrhic one, as the Freedom Party will be encouraged by the fact it nearly won and was only stopped by a last-ditch joint effort by the "establishment".

Tageszeitung believes the only way that the Freedom Party can be prevented from making further gains is for Austria's "democrats" to become less detached from ordinary people.

"They have to encourage the fearful and the disgruntled to take part in social processes," the paper says.

Political earthquake

The French papers Le Figaro and Le Monde also dwell on what they see as the split in Austrian society revealed by the vote.

Image copyright Liberation
Image caption French paper Liberation refers to "bitterness" in the Front National over the Austrian result

Le Figaro points out that large numbers of manual workers fearful for their jobs voted for Mr Hofer, who they see as "a young candidate, capable of turning the system upside down".

Meanwhile, Le Monde says that the Austrian political landscape has already been upended by the election campaign.

The centre-left French paper Liberation says that Mr Hofer's defeat has caused "bitterness" in France's own far-right party, the Front National, which ahead of the French presidential election had been looking for "proof that the 'patriotic camp' is capable of gaining a majority of voters in the second round".

The paper notes that the Front National is now pinning its hopes on the outcome of the UK's "Brexit" referendum.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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