Jewish leaders welcome election defeat for Austrian far-right leader

Jewish leaders welcome election defeat for Austrian far-right leader

Freedom Party leader Norbert Hofer admits defeat after leading the race before postal votes were counted.

Norbert Hofer, leader of Austria's Freedom Party.
Norbert Hofer, leader of Austria's Freedom Party.

The right-wing candidate in Austria’s presidential election has conceded to his left-leaning rival.

Austrian Freedom Party leader Norbert Hofer acknowledged defeat to Alexander Van der Bellen in a Facebook post in which he also thanked his backers for their support.

Mr Hofer said he is “naturally sad”, adding: “I would have been happy to have cared for our wonderful country as federal president.”

Direct votes without the count of about 700,000 absentee ballots being counted on Monday had given Mr Hofer 51.9% while Mr Van der Bellen, a Greens politician running as an independent, got 48.1%.

But projections on Sunday that included the absentee votes had already put Mr Van der Bellen slightly ahead.

European Jewish Congress president Dr Moshe Kantor told Jewish News: “While we are certainly satisfied with the result, there is little room to celebrate the high level of support for someone with such extremist views.

“Unfortunately, the dissatisfaction with the moderate mainstream parties is providing oxygen to those like Hofer and the Freedom Party, and we are  seeing signs of these trends across Europe, so it is incumbent on the more Centrist parties to use this as a wake-up call and listen to the grievances of the people.”

Rabbi Goldschmidt, President of The Conference of European Rabbis, congratulated Van der Bellen. He added it was a “clear sign that Europe is beginning to realise that hate and fear politics are not the answer to the many challenges we are facing as a continent.”

Here in Britain, Jewish leaders welcomed the far-right politician’s defeat, with Board of Deputies President Jonathan Arkush congratulating the victorious president.

Arkush outlined his “grave concern at the level of support for Norbert Hofer and the Freedom Party” claiming they have some “deeply unsettling connections to unsavoury groups in Austrian society which no amount of carefully staged visits to Israel can camouflage.”

He added: “He has used language reminiscent of the Nazi-era, indulged Far Right media and has also carried a gun ‘in response to the migrant crisis.”

On the broader issue of the rise of the European far right, he said it is of “serious concern” to Jews and other minorities in Europe.



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