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European Far-Right Dealt Blow in Austrian Presidential Election

Alexander Van der Bellen, Austria's next president, said his campaign was 'about values: freedom, equality, and solidarity'

Far-right candidate Norbert Hofer (left) conceded defeat to Alexander Van der Bellen on Sunday. (Photo: Helmut Fohringer/APA/AFP)

Austria's far-right presidential candidate Norbert Hofer—who some thought might benefit from a so-called "Trump bump" at the polls—conceded defeat on Sunday, paving the way for "liberal-minded" Alexander Van der Bellen to step into the presidency.

Exit polls released shortly after the polls closed Sunday showed Van der Bellen with 53.5 percent of the vote and Hofer with 46.4 percent.

Speaking on Austrian state television, Van der Bellen said he "always campaigned for a pro-European Austria. This is about values: freedom, equality, and solidarity. Also to include those that don't do that well in the current economic system."

He said he would "actively speak to all voters, including those of Hofer's party. They have real concerns that have to be taken seriously by the president."


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France 24 reports:

A left-leaning candidate who preached tolerance on the campaign trail, Van der Bellen was the hope of Austrians who wanted to stop Hofer, head of the anti-migrant and anti-EU Freedom Party.

At 72, the grey-haired economics professor often cut a wooden and somewhat dishevelled figure on the campaign trail next to smooth-talking gun enthusiast Hofer, 45.

With many EU leaders welcoming Van der Bellen's victory, BBC Europe editor Katya Adler wrote, "[t]he sigh of relief at the outcome of Austria's presidential election was very loud indeed in Brussels."

However, she noted that "voters in Austria—as across much of Europe and in the U.S.—were divided. There weren't many percentage points between the presidential candidates. So there will be disappointment tonight, too, amongst those who support a more nationalist-minded, anti-globalization, immigration-limiting point of view."

"If we've learnt one thing from Brexit and the U.S. elections," Adler continued, "it's that voters are in an unpredictable mood. Anti-establishment sentiment is on the rise, but election victories for Europe's so-called populists are far from inevitable."

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