Norbert Hofer
Norbert HoferReuters

Norbert Hofer of the far-right anti-immigration and eurosceptic Freedom party (FPOe) on Sunday won the first round of votes in Austria's presidential race by a large margin, in the best result FPOe has ever recorded.

Hofer won 36.7% of the vote, with the next closest being Alexander Van der Bellen of the Greens at 19.7% and independent candidate Irmgard Griss at 18.8%. Because Hofer did not win a majority, there will be a second round of voting on May 22.

Two candidates from the governing parties, the Social Democrats (SPOe) and the People's party (OeVP), failed to even make it into the second round.

What that means is that for the first time since 1945, Austria will not have a SPOe or OeVP backed president.

While the post of president is largely ceremonial in Austria, the changing of the guard for the first time since World War II signifies an important shift as the anti-immigration nationalist movement gains steam.

Sunday's results were the best FPOe has yet achieved. The party raised concerns in Europe when it entered the government in 2000 under the late Jorg Haider, an admirer of the Nazi SS.

Hofer has threatened to dissemble the government if it does not crackdown on migrants. He is well known for carrying his Glock handgun around in public.

Making SPOe and OeVP's loss all the more embarrassing is the fact that the only candidate to win less support was Richard Lugner, an 83-year-old construction magnate married to an ex-Playboy model 57 years younger than him. Lugner won 2.4% of the vote.

Ahead of the 2018 general election in Austria, FPOe currently leads opinion polls with over 30% of support, largely due to concerns over the massive influx of migrants particularly from the Middle East.