Austria Decided: No Presidency For The Right-wing Populist Hofer

DSC_8196 copy_edited-1Alexander Van der Bellen, 72-year-old, representing liberal to left-of-center views won Austria’s presidential election over the right-wing populist Norbert Hofer. The preliminary results showed Van der Bellen is ahead. The final result will be announced Tuesday after counting the absentee votes.

More than 500,000 absentee ballots are counted Monday with results expected by Tuesday at the latest. But with most ballots cast Sunday counted, Van der Bellen had 53.3 percent of the vote to Hofer’s 46.7 percent.

Austrian right-wing candidate Hofer on Sunday has congratulated his opponent in presidential elections after projections indicated that he had lost.

“I congratulate Alexander Van der Bellen on his success and call on all Austrians to stick together and work together,” Hofer said on Facebook, adding that he was “incredibly sad.”

The Freedom Party shot to an enduring lead in the polls after the refugee crisis peaked in the fall of 2015, consistently urging that migrants be turned back even as Austria’s centrist government initially supported German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s more liberal line.

Winning Austrian presidential candidate Van der Bellen says his victory over right-wing populist Norbert Hofer shows that most voters backed his message of “freedom, equality, solidarity.”

He said: „He would work to unite a country deeply split between the moderate liberals who voted for him and the supporters of Hofer’s euroskeptic, anti-immigrant Freedom Party.“

The Austrian president’s functions are largely ceremonial and past elections have merited little attention outside the country because they were decided between mainstream candidates. This time, though, the contest was different because the vote Sunday was seen as an indicator of how well euroskeptic candidates will do elsewhere in the EU next year.

Sunday’s election was a rerun from May, which Van der Bellen won by less than 1 percentage point. It was re-held following a court ruling after Hofer’s Freedom Party claimed widespread irregularities.

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