Far-right candidate Norbert Hofer has lost Austria’s presidential election to a left-leaning rival who campaigned on moderation and tolerance.
Preliminary results that showed Alexander Van der Bellen convincingly ahead despite pre-vote polls showing them neck and neck.
The results, released shortly after the polls closed Sunday, showed Van der Bellen with 53.5 percent of the vote and Hofer having 46.4 percent.
Outstanding ballots will not change the outcome, and Hofer conceded he was “infinitely sad” as he congratulated Van der Bellen, former head of the Greens, on his victory.
While the Austrian president is largely a ceremonial role, the election was seen as significant given the surge in support for hard right parties across Europe, and comes ahead of elections next year in France, the Netherlands and Germany where anti-establishment and anti-immigration parties are in strong positions.
Hofer’s anti-migrant Freedom Party has received support from both far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen of France and anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.
Hofer has latterly moved away from backing Austria’s own Brexit and quitting the EU as it has attempted to modify its message.
In a Facebook post published just after the first exit poll, Hofer said he “would have liked to look after Austria”: “I congratulate Alexander Van der Bellen for his success and ask all Austrians to pull together and work together.”