Austrian right-wing candidate Norbert Hofer has conceded defeat to his left-leaning rival Alexander Van der Bellen in the country’s presidential election.
The first official results after the polls closed on Sunday showed Mr Van der Bellen, an independent backed by the Green Party, with 53.3 per cent of the vote and Mr Hofer, of the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPO), with 46.7 per cent.
“I am infinitely sad that it didn’t work out,” Mr Hofer said in a post on his Facebook page.
Mr Hofer congratulated his rival and urged Austrians to “stick together and to work together”.
The election, a re-run of a May vote, had been seen as another test of populist sentiment in Europe ahead of elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands next year.
In Italy, voters headed to the polls on Sunday in a referendum on constitutional reform that could decide the political future of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has promised to resign if he loses.
Austria’s election outcome is a blow to populists who had hoped a wave of anti-establishment anger sweeping Western democracies would carry Mr Hofer to power after Britain’s Brexit referendum and America’s election of Donald Trump as president.
Mr Van der Bellen said his victory in Austria’s presidential election showed that votes within the European Union could be won by candidates who were strongly pro-EU.
European leaders welcome election result
French President Francois Hollande congratulated Mr Van der Bellen for the “clear and uncontested result” in Austria’s presidential election.
Mr Hollande said “the Austrian people made the choice of Europe, and openness”.
Martin Schulz, a centre-left Social Democrat from Germany, congratulated Mr Van der Bellen on winning Austria’s presidency “with a clear pro-European message and campaign”.
While the president’s role is traditionally largely ceremonial, Mr Hofer had made clear he wanted to be an interventionist head of state.
Mr Van der Bellen had placed Brexit at the heart of his campaign, arguing that Mr Hofer wanted Austria to hold its own “Oexit” referendum, putting jobs at risk in the small, trade-dependent country.
The result of the May 22 run-off was overturned mostly due to election officials cutting corners as they raced to complete the count.
The re-run was then postponed because the glue on the envelopes for some postal ballots did not stick.
Article source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-05/leftist-alexander-van-der-bellen-wins-austrian-election/8091666