Norbert Hofer, the defeated populist candidate in Austria’s presidential run-off has appealed to people upset with the outcome not to attack each other.
The Freedom Party (FPO) leader Heinz-Christian Strache says he’s considering challenging some results after receiving reports of voting irregularities.
Hofer lost to the ecologist Alexander Van der Bellen by less than one percentage point.
Commentators have said that a win would have made him the EU’s first far-right head of state – only he rejects that label.
“The FPO is not an extreme right-wing party. If an extreme right-wing party had run for office in Austria – and I ran as candidate of the FPO, not as an independent, I’ve always said that – an extreme right-wing party might have achieved a 2 percent result in Austria. The percentage of fools in Austria is certainly not higher than that. We are a centre-right party with a high degree of social responsibility,” Hofer told a news conference on Tuesday.
Norbert Hofer was responsible for the Freedom Party’s manifesto and its focus on Austrian ‘identity’ – which critics say is designed to exclude immigrants.
He has defended gun ownership – he likes to carry a pistol – saying doing so is the “natural consequence” of immigration.
Last year Austria took in 90,000 asylum seekers, more than one percent of its population. Alarm at Europe’s migrant crisis has been one of the main factors in the Freedom Party’s success.
Nicknamed “doe eyes” by Germany’s Der Spiegel, Hofer has been described as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” by a former aide to the late FPO leader Jorg Haider. He is said to have been one of the key architects of the party’s lurch to the right following a course of relative moderation.
His defenders argue he is merely defending the rights of ordinary people who have been let down by political elites in Austria, and Europe.