After yesterday's presidential run-off round, the leader of Austria's anti-immigration, right-wing party, Norbert Hofer held a comfortable lead based on votes from the ground, with Hofer leading the independent, pro-EU candidate Van der Bellen by 51.9% to 48.1%, according to interior ministry data. However, in the end it all came down to the postal votes, and as BBC reports, the Green Party leader, Alexander Van der Bellen has won Austria's presidential election, preventing Norbert Hofer from becoming the EU's first far-right head of state, the BBC has been told.
The victory of Van der Beldern, who ran on a campaign of "I've experienced how Austria rose from the ruins of World War Two, caused by the madness of nationalism" will come as a big surprise to many local voters, who had expected a Hofer victory following a dramatic first round in the presidential election which saw him sweep his competition including the Green party candidate.
Mr Van der Bellen campaigned on a pro-EU platform,
backed by the Green Party
The 750,000 postal votes - roughly 12% of Austria's 6.4 million registered voters - swayed the result. In the domestic vote, Van der Bellen came top in nine out of Austria's 10 main cities, while Mr Hofer dominated rural areas.
According to the final breakdown, Hofer was defeated by only 31,026 votes, entirely as a result of the postal votes counted early this morning.
While the Austrian presidency is largely a ceremonial post, the president does have the power to dissolve the National Council - the more powerful lower house of parliament - and so trigger a general election.
But the victory by the right-wing Hofer would have been far more symbolic, and would highlight the sharp divisions in Austrian society, one of Europe's more affluent.
As a result, the EU had a distinct interest in not seeing him end up with the victory, and sure enough, that is precisely what happened.
And moments ago, the Austrian Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache conceded his party’s defeat in presidential elections in a posting on his Facebook page. Despite a strong campaign, Freedom candidate Norbert Hofer finished “millimeters” short of victory, Strache said. Austria’s Interior Ministry is expected to announce the full results this afternoon.
Let the Diebold conspiracy theories begin.