Far-Right Austrian Candidate Loses Presidential Bid

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Austria’s far-right candidate for president, Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party, conceded to his Independent rival, Alexander Van der Bellen, on Dec. 4 on Facebook.

The election was a do-over following irregularities in a May election, when Hofer garnered 49.7 percent of the vote, narrowly losing to Van der Bellen. This time around, Van der Bellen received an estimated 53.6 percent of the vote to Hofer’s 46.4 percent.

The office of the president is a largely ceremonial post in Austria, but many Jews in Austria (one of Europe’s smaller communities with 8,000 members) warned that Hofer’s popularity might give the far right in Europe a significant victory. Then again, the Freedom Party does have some Jewish supporters and officials.

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said in a statement, “We join democrats and all right-minded people in Austria and across Europe in breathing a sigh of relief that the first openly racist and xenophobic head of state was not elected on our continent. This would not just have been a disaster for Austria but also for Europe, as it might have given a strong tailwind for other similar extremists across the continent.”