At last a bit of good news from Vienna … of all places in Europe!
In a Facebook post published shortly after the first exit poll, Norbert Hofer of the anti-immigration Freedom party said: “I congratulate Alexander Van der Bellen for his success and ask all Austrians to pull together and work together.”
The 45-year-old said he was “endlessly sad” and “would have liked to look after Austria”.
According to the public broadcaster ORF, Van der Bellen had gained 53.3% of the vote with 69% of voting districts counted – too strong a lead to be turned around by Hofer, who had 46.7% of the vote.
Protesters holding posters that read "No Nazi inside Hofburg palace" demonstrate
against Austrian presidential candidate Norbert Hofer in Vienna, Austria, Dec. 3, 2016. (Reuters)
Hofer also narrowly lost the first runoff vote in May, which was later annulled. In that election, 50.35% of the population voted for Van der Bellen and 49.65% for Hofer.
Austria’s constitutional court annulled the May result in July after an investigation revealed irregularities in the count of the vote in several constituencies.
While the court emphasised that there was no evidence of the outcome of the election having been actively manipulated, the confirmed irregularities had affected a total of 77,926 votes that could have gone to either Hofer or Van der Bellen – enough, in theory, to change the outcome of the election.