Residents in Vienna say the runoff presidential election that had Austrian voter's rejecting an anti-immigration candidate from the far-right Freedom Party was good for Europe, but that lawmakers need to do more to stop the wave of populism sweeping Western democracies. Subtitled Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
SUBTITLED ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION STORY: Austrian voters roundly rejected on Sunday (December 4) a candidate vying to become the first freely elected far-right head of state in Europe since World War Two, halting at least temporarily the wave of populism sweeping Western democracies. The runoff vote was a litmus test, since it was a re-run of a vote held in May, before Britain voted to leave the European Union and Americans elected Donald Trump as president. Norbert Hofer of the anti-immigration Freedom Party lost the May election by less than a percentage point, and polls had for months shown the race too close to call. But within minutes of polls closing it was clear he had lost to former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen, who had put the June Brexit referendum at the centre of his campaign, saying Hofer would lead Austria down the same road as Britain and warning voters not to "play with this fire". Austrians seemed wary on Monday (December 5) as Hofer and his populist Freedom Party (FP) immediately set their sights on taking control of government in the parliamentary election next year. "There is no doubt that the FPO will not accept this result just like that, they will try to put some oil on fire, might even ask for new elections. We will have only a small break as the struggle goes on for open society, human rights and everything that Europe stands for", Vienna resident Barbara Eppensteiner said. "I find it very good that reason won over the populist idea but it will not stop, this is a story that will go on. There will be new elections and the cards will be dealt again. So I don't see this as such a big success because it is only a small glimmer of hope, Thomas Martin said. The Sunday's result is a blow to populists who had hoped a wave of anti-establishment anger sweeping Western democracies would carry Norbert Hofer to power after Britain's Brexit referendum and Americans' election of Donald Trump as president. Hofer, of the anti-immigration and anti-Islam Freedom Party (FPO), conceded he had been soundly beaten by pro-European environmentalist Alexander Van der Bellen. Austria's president traditionally has a largely ceremonial role. But the election, a re-run of a May vote that was overturned due to counting irregularities, had been seen as another test of populist sentiment in Europe ahead of elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands next year. Voters may have heeded Van der Bellen's increasingly strident warnings that Hofer wanted to follow Britain's lead and pull Austria out of the European Union.