THE Independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen (supported by the Green Party) has beaten far-right candidate Norbert Hofer in a close run election to become Austria's next president in a tightly fought contest decided by mail-in votes.
His victory Monday prevented Hofer, of Austria's Freedom Party, from becoming the European Union's first far-right head of state.
Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka announced the results Monday in Vienna, revealing that Van der Bellen had won 50.3% of the ballot (2,254,484 votes) to Hofer's 49.7% (2,223,458 votes).
Van der Bellen, a 72-year-old economist, ran as an independent, although the Green Party, of which he was a former leader, financially backed his campaign.
Hofer had held a narrow lead in the neck-and-neck race on Sunday evening, with 51.9% of the vote to Van der Bellen's 48.1%, according to Austria's Interior Ministry.
In the end, the race was decided by more than 700,000 mail-in votes, accounting for 14% of eligible voters.
Van der Bellen, who fared better with urban voters, had been expected to secure more of the mail-in votes than his 45-year-old rival, a trained aeronautical engineer, who drew strong support in rural areas. Hofer had won 35% in the first round of voting last month to Van der Bellen's 21%.