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Alexander Van der Bellen, re-elected president of Austria according to exit polls

Austrians re-elected Alexander Van der Bellen to the post of president on Sunday, according to exit polls, in an apparent bid for stability amid an energy crisis and high inflation in the country.

78 years old and supported by a wide political spectrum, Van der Bellen would win from the first round with 54.6% of the vote, far ahead of the other six candidates, according to these first projections published shortly after 5:00 p.m. (15:00 GMT). . The official result would only be known on Monday.

“It would be nice to see clear today, and it would be good for Austria. It would help us to fully concentrate … on the many crises we are facing in Europe,” Van der Bellen said after voting in Vienna in the morning.

Campaigning on the slogan “clarity,” Van der Bellen was the favorite to win and secure a second term. His six opponents have always lagged behind in the polls.

Some 6.4 million people were called to the polls, out of a total population of 9 million.

Polling stations in Vienna and much of the rest of the country opened at 0700 (0500 GMT) and closed at 1700 (1500 GMT).

In his campaign, the outgoing president presented himself as “the safe option in stormy times”, in the face of the effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has fueled inflation across Europe.

His rivals included Walter Rosenkranz of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) and rocker Dominik Wlazny, founder of the Beer Party.

Analyst Thomas Hofer considered it “crucial” that Van der Bellen avoided the ballot as in 2016, when he had to face a “very divisive and hostile” campaign.

“Van der Bellen represents integrity and stability, which is highly appreciated by voters given the multitude of crises many European countries are facing,” Julia Partheymüller, an analyst at the University of Vienna, told AFP.

– ‘Far right weakened’ –

“I am in favor of stability,” Monika Gregor, a 73-year-old retiree, told AFP, calling the outgoing president a “very smart” man.

But others preferred to give their vote to civil society candidates.

Alexander Nittmann, a 35-year-old computer scientist, chose the punk singer Dominik Wlazny, who is the same age as him, founder of the Beer Party.

“I think a little fresh air in politics doesn’t hurt,” he explained, judging his campaign as serious beyond good humor.

The far-right party FPÖ, which almost won against Alexander Van der Bellen in 2016, would like to repeat the same scenario.

But his little-known candidate, Walter Rosenkranz, 60, won 18.9% of the vote on Sunday, according to early projections, unlike recent elections in Sweden and Italy.

Corruption cases caused the Austrian extreme right to lose ground. Six years ago it was the first in Europe to caress victory in a presidential election.

Founded by former Nazis, the FPÖ finally won with more than 46% of the vote, the epilogue of elections that worried the European Union and Austria’s Western partners.

The party acceded to the government within the framework of a coalition with the conservatives of the young Sebastian Kurz, but had to leave power in 2019 after a bizarre scandal and did not recover its past glory.

– Child of refugees –

Alexander Van der Bellen guaranteed the continuity of the State, after the turmoil and the successive changes of chancellors.

He was thus able to present himself as “the only one who can avoid chaos”, according to political scientist Thomas Hofer, questioned by AFP.

He also carried out a sober campaign, advocating the “clarity” and “capacity” of government with a view to “going through the turbulence in the most serene way possible.”

His atypical profile did not augur a political destiny for him at all.

Austere, agnostic and married twice on Catholic soil, the former head of the Greens and dean of the Faculty of Economics in Vienna was able to forget his strong leftist spirit to congregate and unite.

This heavy smoker, who always sports a three-day beard, had himself photographed wearing a typical alpine bag next to the snowy mountains to convince public opinion of his patriotism.

This environmentalist is also the son of refugees. His father, an aristocrat, and his Estonian mother came to Vienna during World War II before moving to Tyrol, fleeing the arrival of the Red Army.

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