Austria voted against the anti-Muslim immigrant Freedom Party candidate Hofer as head of state in a presidential election race which became the latest test of rising anti-establishment forces in Europe after the election of Donald Trump as US president.
Reuters Norbert Hofer, the Freedom party candidate, won 46.7% of the vote in Sunday’s contest according to early results and projections. His opponent Alexander Van der Bellen, a Green politician who ran as an independent, won 53.3%.
The candidate vying to become Europe’s first freely elected far-right head of state since World War Two conceded defeat in Austria’s presidential election soon after polls closed on Sunday evening.
The result is a blow to populists who had hoped a wave of anti-establishment anger sweeping Western democracies would carry Norbert Hofer to power after Britain’s Brexit referendum and Americans’ election of Donald Trump as president.
Hofer, of the anti-immigration and anti-Islam Freedom Party (FPO), conceded he had been soundly beaten by former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen. Voters may have heeded Van der Bellen’s increasingly strident warnings that Hofer wanted to follow Britain’s lead and pull Austria out of the European Union.
A Hofer win would have raised the prospect of two near-simultaneous blows to Europe’s political establishment. Italy is holding a referendum on Sunday on constitutional reform that could decide the political future of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has promised to resign if he loses.