Austria’s Freedom Party conceded defeat on Sunday in its bid to elect Europe’s first far-right president, as projections showed its candidate Norbert Hofer lagging behind in a bitterly fought election re-run.
Greens-backed independent Alexander Van der Bellen, 72, swept 53.6 per cent of the votes, while his rival of the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPOe) received 46.4 per cent, projections showed.
The official result of the marathon presidential election, which lasted nearly a year, is not expected before Monday, but the party conceded defeat within minutes of the poll projections being released, shortly after voting ended.
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Van der Bellen,” FPOe chief strategist Herbert Kickl told Austrian media.
The outcome deals a crushing blow to Hofer who already narrowly lost to Van der Bellen in a first runoff in May, which was then annulled over ballot counting breaches.
His defeat will also see EU leaders breathe a sigh of relief in the wake of the anti-establishment tide sweeping many countries following Brexit and Donald Trump’s shock election victory in the US.
Smooth-tongued gun enthusiast Hofer had vowed to “get rid of the dusty establishment”, seek closer ties with Russia and fight against “Brussels centralising power”.
Observers feared that a win for the Austrian far-right could trigger a domino effect with key elections next year in France, Germany and The Netherlands.