van der bellin
Left-leaning Alexander Van der Bellen defeated anti-immigration candidate Norbert Hofer in Sunday's rerun presidential election in Austria. He is pictured here as he arrived to cast his ballot in Vienna, Dec. 4, 2016. Heinz-Peter Bader

Austrian voters Sunday rejected far-right leader Norbert Hofer of the anti-immigration Freedom Party, electing environmentalist Alexander Van der Bellen as president, projections indicated.

The result, if it holds, reaffirms the results of May’s balloting, in which Hofer narrowly lost with 49.65 percent of the vote. The result was overturned when irregularities were found in the counting of mail-in ballots.

Hofer, 45, who conceded based on early projections indicating he was behind by 7 percentage points, ran on an anti-immigration, anti-Islam platform.

Van der Bellen, 72, known informally as “Sascha,” said his election has implications far beyond Austria.

“What happens here today has relevance for all of Europe,” he said before the vote-counting began. The election was seen as a barometer on euroskeptic candidates elsewhere and comes as Italy is deciding on constitutional reforms.

The Austrian president’s job is largely ceremonial, but Hofer had made it clear he wanted to have a hand in policy, threatening to dismiss a government that raises taxes and calling for voter input on a wide range of issues.

Earlier Sunday, Hofer tried to reassure the country he was not a radical and accused Nigel Farage, leader of the U.K.’s far-right Independence Party, not to interfere in Austrian affairs, rejecting Farage’s call for a referendum on Austria’s membership in the European Union, the Telegraph reported.

An Auschwitz survivor Friday pleaded with Austrian voters not to elect Hofer.

“It’s the humiliation of others, the demonization of others, that alarms me the most,” said the 89-year-old woman identified only as Gertrude.

“We have already seen that scenario. Like the Jews: They had to clean the streets. The Viennese men, women and children, stood by and laughed. ‘Look at that! Hahaha!’ they said. And that’s what they’re trying to bring out in people again.”


Like Donald Trump in the United States, Hofer attracted support from disillusioned, working class voters.

Van der Bellen is professor emeritus at the University of Vienna where he served as dean of economics.

Van der Bellin had the backing of Chancellor Christian Kern, and like him is a former Green Party leader. Conservative voters had accused the president-elect of pandering to the left.

"I don't want that Austria becomes the first country in western Europe led by a populist right-wing, pan-Germanic fraternity member," he said during a debate ahead of May’s overturned election. Hofer called him a “fascist green dictator.”

In their final debate before Sunday’s election, Hofer intimated Van der Bellen had spied for the Soviet Union during the Cold War, citing a book by a former security official.

"That is the most appalling thing I have heard in a long time," Van der Bellen said. "If I had known about these claims in the book we would have sued. ... It's ridiculous."

Van der Bellen admits to two weaknesses: cigarettes and Donald Duck comics.