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Austrian left-leaning candidate narrowly wins


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Mr Hofer and Mr Van der Bellen drew clear lines between themselves during the campaign.

“There would not be an immediate political impact on the European level either”.

Today’s run-off election comes after Hofer claimed 35 per cent of the vote at first round elections, while van der Bellen secured just 21 per cent, back in April.

Austria’s Norbert Hofer narrowly failed Monday to become the EU’s first far-right president after his ecologist rival scraped to victory in a knife-edge election that was a rude wake-up call for the continent’s established parties.

The runoff voting Sunday saw a close fight between far right-wing Freedom Party of Austria candidate Norbert Hofer and Green Party independent Alexander Van der Bellen.

Mr Hofer, from the Austrian Freedom Party, had been neck and neck with the Green Party-backed Van der Bellen while votes were being counted yesterday. Hofer holds a 3.8 point lead, but the gap is expected to shrink when counters include absentee ballots Monday.

The Austrian presidential election is now too close to call, putting the country on the brink of electing Western Europe’s first democratically-elected far-right leader since World War II. That reflects disillusionment with the status quo, and their approach to the migrant crisis and other issues. In their view, van der Bellen is the radical one, and it’s a shame that he eked out the win…because he’s nicer to brown people than the neo-Nazi candidate.

“I’ll certainly endeavour to build bridges over the trenches that have been dug, to certainly not dig them deeper, and to make an effort to take everybody in this country with me”, Van der Bellen told supporters on Sunday. Mr Hofer, in turn, used his last pre-election gathering to deliver a message with anti-Muslim overtones. After casting his vote earlier in the day in Pinkafeld, a city in his eastern home state of Burgenland, Hofer replied in English after being asked about fears that he would push a far-right agenda.

“Hofer is selling himself as a nice, friendly person at the moment, but he’s risky”, Osman, a Bosnian immigrant to Austria, told Deutsche Welle.

Observers confirm that Hofer has the most chances to win the elections.

“Had Hofer won, he would have been the first elected head of state from a far-right party in the European Union”.

Many Austrian websites went down under the weight of traffic as the country waited for news of the final result.

An even bigger challenge awaits the coalition government of the Social Democrats (SPOe) and the centre-right People’s Party (OeVP), which have dominated national politics since 1945.

According to Heinz Gaertner, “the constitution gives the president a right to dissolve parliament and dismiss the government”.

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