Populist candidate Norbert Hofer admitted defeat Sunday after exit polls showed a clear victory for former Green Party leader Alexander van der Bellen.
The election was considered a dead heat when Austrians hit the polls Sunday. Several exit polls gave van der Bellen a seven-point edge, which led to Hofer to concede defeat before any official results had been announced.
“You have given me such great support, and I am incredibly sad that it didn’t work out,” Hofer wrote on his Facebook page. “I would have liked to watch over our Austria.”
The presidency is purely a ceremonial position in Austria. The election was still highly anticipated as a test for the populist movement in Europe following Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election.
Van der Bellen was originally pronounced winner in May following a narrow victory. Austria’s highest court annulled the results after “illegal and improper” handling of postal votes were discovered weeks later. (RELATED: Austrian Presidential Election Was Rigged)
Hofer openly opposes Muslim immigration and is skeptical of the European Union. He also carried a Glock handgun on the campaign trail in an effort to get Austrians to protect themselves.
Freedom Party members considered the election a huge step in the right direction despite the defeat.
“As a lone party against the Social Democrats, the Popular Party, the Greens, and others, and the establishment media, we still took 2.2 million votes,” Anton Mahdalik, a Freedom Party member of the Vienna city council, said after Hofer conceded, according to The Telegraph.
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