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Van der Bellen wins Austria's presidential election


12-05-2016 16:49 BJT

Left-leaning former Green Party leader Alexander Van der Bellen defeated Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party in Austria’s presidential election on Sunday.

Van der Bellen is a strong supporter of the European Union and liberal migrant policies. He will take over the mostly symbolic presidency on January 26. Van der Bellen’s win kept Austria from becoming the first EU country since World War II to elect a far-right head of state.

Austria’s vote was closely watched as a gauge of wider populist, anti-establishment, anti-immigration and Eurosceptic parties following the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election win in the United States.

Van der Bellen says his victory marks a historic day for Austria and sends a signal of hope to Europe.

“I think it is a historic day for Austria, for several reasons. Because you know conditions changed, the world around us has changed. We had the Brexit vote in Great Britain, in the United Kingdom, we had the election of Donald Trump in the United States and so on; in six months many things happened,” he said.

“I think it is not an exaggeration if I say that today we see a red-white-red—you know, the flag of Austria—a red-white-red signal of hope and change, a red-white-red signal today goes from Austria to all the capitals of the European Union. I will try to be an open-minded, liberal-minded and, first of all, a pro-European federal president of the Republic of Austria.”

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