Austria’s far-right Freedom Party presidential candidate, Norbert Hofer, conceded defeat minutes after poll projections were released, dashing his hopes of becoming the European Union’s first democratically elected far-right president since WWII.
The first official results showed that the left-leaning candidate Alexander Van der Bellen had an unbeatable lead over his rival, with 53.5 percent to 46.4 percent for Hofer.
In an official statement to the Austrian media, the Freedom Party’s chief strategist said: “I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Van der Bellen. The bottom line is: it didn’t quite work out. In this case the establishment — which pitched in once again to block, to stonewall and to prevent renewal — has won.”
Mr Hofer, too, showing grace in defeat, congratulated his opponent on Facebook, calling on “all Austrians to stick together and work together.”
Though votes are still being counted, officials say they will not change the outcome even though the percentages may vary.
Given that polls ahead of Sunday’s vote had shown the two candidates neck-and-neck, the significant lead of Van der Bellen came as a surprise.
The Austrian election is a court-ordered repeat of a May election that Van der Bellen one by less that one percent, in which irregularity in the count of postal votes caused the result to be overturned.