Independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen beat Norbert Hofer’s FPO party in Austria this weekend.
Far-right candidate, Norbert Hofer, admitted defeat not long after the polls closed on Sunday afternoon, Sky News reports. The party’s foreign affairs spokesman told Sky News, that ‘the numbers showed that Mr Van der Bellen had won, and nothing could change that.’
Mr Van der Bellen took 51.68 per cent of the vote, with Mr Hofer claiming 48.32 per cent. Mr Van der Bellen believes his win ‘sends a message to the capitals of the European Union that one can win elections with high European positions.’
The split between the two is said to increase further, according to poll analysts, as they claim it could reach 53.3 per cent to 46.7 per cent in favour of the independent candidate. There are around half-a-million absentee votes to still add up, so the final result is expected by Tuesday.
The result comes as a surprise however, as polls showed the two candidates to be neck and neck prior to the election – a re-run of the one in May which was ordered by the court, after Mr Van der Bellen narrowly won by just one per cent.
At the heart of ‘far-right’ candidate Mr Hofer’s campaign, was the promise to close Austria’s borders to migrants and ‘put Austria first.’
He took to Facebook to share his condolences and congratulate his opponent:
I am very sad that it didn’t work out. I would have loved to look after our Austria.
Alexander Van der Bellen I congratulate you for your success and I ask all Austrians to please stick together and let us work together.
We are all Austrians irrespective of who we voted for. Long live our homeland Austria.
A very different candidate, Mr Van der Bellen is a 72-year-old, retired economics professor who supports the EU, free trade and takes a liberal stance towards migrants. Presidential elections prior to this one have been mainly ceremonial and not attracted as much global interest.
The latest however, could act as an indicator for how other Eurosceptic candidates might perform in other EU elections.
Germany’s Vice Chancellor and head of their centre-left Social Democrats, Sigmar Gabriel, spoke out about the win, saying the result was, ‘a clear victory for good sense against right-wing populism.’
A load has been taken off the mind of all of Europe.
Deputy German Justice Minister and Social Democrat, Ulrich Kelber also spoke out regarding the US’s recent election.
Perhaps (Donald) Trump’s election was the turning point. The liberal majority pushes back.
President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz seemed to support Mr Van der Bellen’s win, saying it was ‘a heavy defeat of nationalism and anti-European, backward-looking populism’.
And French President Francois Hollande also praised his win and everything it represents, saying: “The Austrian people made the choice of Europe, and openness.”
It’s a progressive win for Austria, which many hope could set a precedent for other European countries to follow suit.
2017 will be an interesting year…