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Austria narrowly misses voting in extreme right president

Left-wing independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen (C) is surrounded by supporters and media after winning the Austrian presidential election, REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger.

Austria narrowly misses voting in extreme right president

Austria has voted in a new president – Alexander Van der Bellen winning by the narrowest margin from extreme right candidate Norbert Hofer.

Van der Bellen, an independent, is nonetheless being hailed as the world’s first elected Green head of state, after leading Austria’s Greens for a decade. He won the race by 31,000 votes among the 4.64m cast.

The president-elect vowed to address the “divisions” among Austrians that the poll had “made visible”.

He said he accepted many Austrians had different views and that some were angry, but added: “People can be different and still treat each other respectfully.”

Far right campaigner Hofer’s campaign had targeted anti-EU feelings and fears about migrants.

Hofer had been photographed sporting the German colours of the nationalist Marko-Germania student fraternity, which stands for “the German cultural community” and bears the slogan “Honour, Freedom, Fatherland”.

At his swearing-in as a Freedom Party candidate Hofer wore a cornflower in his lapel – a Nazi symbol in the 1930s.

He said his defeat was a “sad day”.

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