Austria's Far-Right Presidential Candidate Loses In An Election Do-Over


Austria's Far-Right Presidential Candidate Loses In An Election Do-Over

Alexander Van der Bellen, a left-leaning politician who preached moderation and tolerance, won Austria's presidential election Sunday over right-wing populist Norbert Hofer, according to preliminary results that showed Van der Bellen convincingly ahead.

Norbert Hofer says results "can look differently" in the next race for the position, adding "I hope I will win then". Combined with votes cast Sunday, the total tally slightly widened the margin between Hofer and victor Alexander Van der Bellen.

The original presidential vote was held in May, with Van der Bellen, a former Green Party leader, defeating Hofer by little more than 30,000 votes in a tightly fought contest decided by mail-in ballots.

The post of president is ceremonial in Austria, but the vote was widely viewed as an indication of how well populist candidates would fare in European elections following this year's Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump in the United States.

The official results are expected to be announced late Monday or Tuesday. But the Freedom Party conceded defeat within minutes of the poll projections being released, shortly after voting ended.

Hofer admitted defeat in a note on his Facebook account, saying "You have supported me so magnificently and I am infinitely sad that it did not work out".

Appearing later with Van der Bellen, Hofer said his loss "is really very painful. but the voter is always right in a democracy". "The European right-wing populists' party is off for now".

Wishing Van der Bellen success in his term as president, Tusk added: "At a time when we are faced with many hard challenges, the continued constructive contribution of Austria to finding common European solutions and keeping our European unity will remain essential".

Van der Bellen, a 72-year-old economist whose parents spent time in a refugee camp before settling in Austria, has championed liberal migration policies.

Freedom Party spokesman Karl-Heinz Gruensteidl told CNN that Hofer is not planning a referendum but wants to strengthen Austria's role within the European Union, and that he seeks a more federalist European Union model.

Following his victory in May, which was later annulled, Van der Bellen told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that Europe "shouldn't dramatize" the growing popularity of far-right parties in Europe. The two, who both face their own national elections next year, congratulated Hofer on his strong showing.

He said he would work to unite a country deeply split between the moderate liberals who voted for him and supporters of Hofer's anti-immigrant party.

"The next legislative elections will be their victory", she said on Twitter.

Congratulating Van der Bellen, EU Council President Donald Tusk said "the continued constructive contribution of Austria to finding common European solutions and keeping our European unity will remain essential".

"The right-wing rabble-rousers have to be stopped!" Austria's Constitutional Court ordered a repeat following a court ruling after Hofer's Freedom Party claimed widespread irregularities.