Far-right candidate Norbert Hofer narrowly loses Austrian election


The Freedom Party's Norbert Hofer has lost Austria’s presidential election to an independent, Alexander Van der Bellen.

Far-right Mr Hofer, who has capitalised on anti-immigrant sentiment in Austria, led narrowly after Sunday's election but postal votes counted on Monday gave Mr Van der Bellen victory.

Mr Van der Bellen campaigned on a pro-EU platform, backed by the Green Party.

Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, said: “We would like to congratulate Mr Van der Bellen on his victory in the Austrian Presidential election. This is a clear sign that Europe is beginning to realise that hate and fear politics are not the answer to the many challenges we are facing as a continent.”

Board of Deputies President Jonathan Arkush also congratulated Mr Van der Bellen, but added: "We also wish to note our grave concern at the level of support for Norbert Hofer and the Freedom Party. Mr Hofer and the Freedom Party have some deeply unsettling connections to unsavoury groups in Austrian society which no amount of carefully staged visits to Israel can camouflage. He has used language reminiscent of the Nazi-era, indulged far-right media and has also carried a gun in response to the migrant crisis."

According to the Austrian Forum Against Antisemitism, reported incidents involving hatred of Jews increased in the country last year by more than 80 per cent, to 465.

Mr Hofer won 36 per cent of the vote in the first round of voting in April, against 20 per cent secured by Mr van der Bellen.

His popularity has been fuelled by Austrians’ fears about the arrival of thousands of migrants in their country. More than 90,000 people — mostly Muslims — applied for asylum last year.

Mr Hofer, who has worked as an engineer and is known to be a proud gun-owner, has pledged to stop the “Muslim invasion”.

Previous Austrian president Kurt Waldheim, the former UN secretary general who was elected in 1986, was revealed to have served as a young man in the Wehrmacht during the Second World War.

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