Austria far-right loses, Italy votes in EU shake-up

  • 05/12/2016
A girl holds up a banner to support Austrian presidential candidate Alexander van der Bellen (Getty)
A girl holds up a banner to support Austrian presidential candidate Alexander van der Bellen (Getty)

Far-right Austrian presidential candidate Norbert Hofer's campaign manager has conceded defeat to former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen.

The 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.

"The bottom line is it didn't quite work out," Herbert Kickl told broadcaster ORF as initial projections showed Mr Van der Bellen leading with a score of around 54 percent to Mr Hofer's 46 percent.

"In this case the establishment - which pitched in once again to block, to stonewall and to prevent renewal - has won," he said.

If he had won, Mr Hofer would have become the first freely elected far-right head of state in Europe since World War II.

The election has been seen as another test of populist sentiment in Europe ahead of elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands next year.

Austria's neighbour Italy could be in for a political shake-up in a landmark referendum that might see its Prime Minister ousted.

Italians are voting on constitutional reform, but the referendum is expected to be used by many as a chance to register discontent about the European Union.

Populist parties have campaigned for a vote to ditch the euro currency, while Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has promised to resign if he loses.

"Opinion polls have been suggesting that he may well lose the referendum and there may well be a 'No' vote in Italy," Newshub correspondent Olly Barratt says.

"They are anti-European Union - in the sense that they have called themselves to a referendum on whether Italy should stay in the euro single currency."

The vote is not to leave the EU Brexit-style, but Italy, like many European nations, is seeing a populist backlash that could severely damage the European Union.

In France, far-right leader Marie Le Pen is campaigning for the presidency and is polling at around 30 percent. If elected, she is promising a 'Frexit' like Britain's EU departure.

In the Netherlands, far-right leader Geert Wilders won more than 1 million votes in 2012, and is poised to double that number in the March 2017 general election.

Reuters / Newshub.