Jewish European leaders have welcomed Alexander Van der Bellen’s Austrian presidential election over right-wing populist Norbert Hofer.
Preliminary results, released shortly after the polls closed on Sunday, showed Mr Van der Bellen, former head of the Greens, with 53.5% of the vote and Mr Hofer having 46.4%.
Mr Hofer said in a Facebook post that he was “endlessly sad” about his loss, adding: “I would have been happy to take care of our Austria.”
He congratulated his rival and urged Austrians to “stick together and to work together”.
The European Jewish Congress (EJC) welcomed the results, saying: “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,” Dr. Moshe Kantor, President of the EJC, said.
“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, like the National Front leader Marine Le Pen who is competing in the upcoming French presidential elections.”
“We hope that this creates momentum for mainstream and decent politicians to start to fight back against those who are using recent economic and social upheavals to push their intolerant agenda.”
Mr Van der Bellen is pro-European Union and represents liberal to left-of-centre views while Mr Hofer comes from the Eurosceptic anti-migrant Freedom Party. His campaign message has varied from hard-line when talking to Freedom Party supporters to more moderate when trying to woo undecided voters disenchanted with the political establishment.
The election was a rerun from May, which Mr Van der Bellen won by less than one percentage point. It was re-held following a court ruling after Mr Hofer’s Freedom Party claimed widespread irregularities.
Mr Van der Bellen noted the outsize attention the election in Austria was receiving.
“What happens here today has relevance for all of Europe,” he said before casting his ballot.
Other populist politicians in the EU who want their countries out of the bloc were supportive of Mr Hofer ahead of elections they will face next year. Both far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen of France and anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders in the Netherlands tweeted their support.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.