Left-Leaning Candidate Wins Austrian Presidential Vote

The result of the May 22 runoff was overturned mostly due to election officials cutting corners as they raced to complete the count.

Van der Bellen repeated the feat on Sunday - the first vote was annulled because of sloppy counting - again keeping Hofer from becoming the European Union's first far-right head of state and prompting what might be an even bigger sense of relief after the rise of populists across Western democracies.

The knife-edge presidential run-off was all the more dramatic for being a re-run of an election held six months ago - before Britain chose to leave the European Union and Americans elected Donald Trump as president - offering an indication of whether popular anger at the political establishment has grown. "We all are Austria", he said in a television address. "This would not just have been a disaster for Austria but also for Europe, as it might have given a strong tailwind for other similar extremists across the continent, like the National Front leader Marine Le Pen who is competing in the upcoming French presidential elections".

The official result of the marathon presidential election - which lasted almost a year - is not expected before Monday, but the party conceded defeat within minutes of the poll projections being released, shortly after voting ended.

The latest polling from Austria's state ORF broadcaster shows former Green Party leader Alex Van der Bellen with a seven per cent lead.

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Hofer openly opposes Muslim immigration and is skeptical of the European Union.

Hofer's campaign in Austria seemed to echo Trump's, with far-right outlets spreading damaging fake news and Hofer and his surrogates taking aim at red herrings such as his opponent's health.

Britain's "Brexit" vote to leave the European Union in a referendum in June sent shockwaves through Brussels, where fears are growing that more member states might consider pulling out of the post-war bloc.

German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel welcomed Van der Bellen's presidential election victory, hailing the result as a "victory of reason against right-wing populism", according to an interview with Germany's Bild newspaper.

Van der Bellen, a left-leaning, pro-Europe moderate backed by Austria's Greens, was estimated to have won by an unexpectedly large margin of 7%.

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Austrian Chancellor and Social Democrat Christian Kern congratulated Van der Bellen shortly after the exit poll was announced.

Schulz added on Twitter that Van der Bellen's victory "is a heavy defeat of nationalism and anti-European, backward-looking populism".

Van der Bellen is running against right-wing populist Norbert Hofer.

Hofer, a 45-year-old former aeronautical engineer, moved the emphasis from the Austrian Freedom Party's (FPOe) often xenophobic agenda to one highlighting social inequality.

The election is a rerun from May, which Van der Bellen won by less than 1 percentage point. Although the battle for the presidency is over, Austria's larger, ongoing political struggle now enters its next stage.

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