- The Washington Times - Monday, May 23, 2016

In an election closely watched across the continent, a far-right candidate who attacked Austria’s open policies on immigration was narrowly defeated by a leftist rival, Austria’s interior minister announced Monday in Vienna.

Norbert Hofer, a candidate of the ultra-conservative Freedom Party, lost out to independent Alexander Van der Bellen only after absentee ballots erased Mr. Hofer’s preliminary lead coming out of Sunday’s race. In the final tally, Mr. Ven der Bellen won 50.3 percent of the 4.6 million ballots cast, just 31,000 votes ahead of Mr. Hofer.

In conceding defeat, Mr. Hofer said he is looking ahead at the future of Austria’s far-right as the continent struggles to deal with an unprecedented surge of migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and other crisis spots.

“Of course I am sad,” Mr. Hofer told supporters on Facebook. “But please don’t be disheartened. The effort in this election campaign is not wasted, but is an investment for the future.”

With this election, Europe came close to having its first far-right head of state in the postwar era.

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