Far-right candidate narrowly defeated in Austrian presidential election

The Guardian reports: A leftwing, independent candidate has narrowly prevented Austria from becoming the first EU country to elect a far-right head of state after a knife-edge contest ended with his opponent conceding defeat.

Alexander Van der Bellen, a retired economics professor backed by the Green party, defeated Norbert Hofer of the anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic Freedom party a day after polling closed and only once more than 700,000 postal ballots – about 10% of available votes – were taken into account.

In a post on Facebook, Hofer wrote: “Dear friends, I thank you for your fantastic support. Of course today I am sad. I would have liked to have watched out for you as president of our wonderful country.”

The Austrian interior ministry confirmed that after postal votes were counted, Hofer’s final score was 49.7%, against 50.3% for his rival Van der Bellen, a former Green party leader and the son of two wartime refugees.

The two were separated by just 31,000 votes out of more than 4.6 million ballots cast after finishing neck and neck in Sunday’s elections, when Van der Bellen collected 48.1% of direct votes and Hofer 51.9%. [Continue reading…]

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