**Austria rejects far-right candidate Norbert Hofer in presidential election
Pro-European Alexander Van der Bellen increases his lead after narrow win in May election was annulled
Austria has decisively rejected the possibility of the European Union getting its first far-right head of state, instead electing a strongly pro-European former leader of the Green party as its next president.
Alexander Van der Bellen, who ran as an independent, increased his lead over the Freedom party candidate, Norbert Hofer, by a considerable margin from the original vote in May, which was annulled by the constitutional court because of sloppy vote-counting…
The Freedom party secretary Herbert Kickl, who acted as Hofer’s campaign manager, said: “The bottom line is it didn’t quite work out. In this case the establishment – which pitched in once again to block, to stonewall and to prevent renewal – has won.”
Werner Kogler, a delegate for the Green party, described the result as a “small global turning of the tide in these uncertain, not to say hysterical and even stupid times”…
In the wake of the first exit polls on Sunday evening, many politicians speculated that Britain’s vote to leave the European Union may have played a role in boosting Van der Bellen’s lead from May.
Hofer had promised to call a referendum on EU membership if the bloc of states took further steps towards integration, while also stating that he believed Austria was better off in the EU. Van der Bellen ran his second campaign on a decisively pro-European ticket, with posters proclaiming that a vote for him meant “No to Öxit”.
Reinhold Lopatka, party leader of the centre-right ÖVP, speculated on Sunday night that fears about Austria’s EU membership would most likely have played a role in winning Van der Bellen votes in regional districts that profited from European Union subsidies. According to an ORF poll, 65% of Van der Bellen’s voters had cited his pro-EU attitudes as the main reason for rooting for the candidate.**