Austrian president secures second term, election forecast shows

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By Louise Miner  with AFP
Austria's President Alexander Van der Bellen and his wife Doris speak to the media in front of a polling station in Vienna, in presidential elections on October 9, 2022.
Austria's President Alexander Van der Bellen and his wife Doris speak to the media in front of a polling station in Vienna, in presidential elections on October 9, 2022.   -   Copyright  JOE KLAMAR/AFP or licensors

Austria's current president Alexander Van der Bellen has secured a second six-year term in office.

He obtained more than 50% of the vote in an election on Sunday, avoiding a second-round run-off, according to a forecast. 

The projection by pollster SORA put Van der Bellen, a 78-year-old former leader of the Greens, on 54.6% with a margin of error of 2.1 percentage points. 

The final official result is not expected until Monday.

His nearest rival was far-right Freedom Party candidate Walter Rosenkranz who 18.9% of the vote.

The pro-European, liberal president faced six other challengers -- all men -- but only the populist Freedom Party fielded a candidate against him. 

He promised to provide the nation with 'stability' and 'clarity'. 

This was Austria's first national election since the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war rocked its economy.

The former Green leader's campaign positioned him as "the safe choice in stormy times" during his campaign. 

He ran again as an independent, but was largely backed by Austria's major parties -- bar the Freedom Party.

Also standing for the presidency was 35-year-old punk rocker Dominik Wlazny, who founded the Beer Party, a satirical group based around the alcoholic beverage.  

He came in fourth place with 8.1% of the vote, according to the projections. 

Though Van der Bellen was widely tipped to win, voters in Austria said it was still worth turning out. 

Alexander Nittmann, a software developer, said before the vote: "I think it's important to make your voice known because there are quite a few candidates this year [opposing the incumbent]."

"You really have no excuse to say ‘my preferred candidate wasn't there' and that's why I think it's all the more important to say ‘I'm going to vote," he added.

Some 6.4 million Austrians were eligible to vote in the election. 

Past polls put Van der Bellen as securing more than 50%, avoiding a runoff. 

In Austria's electoral system, if a presidential candidate does not receive an outright win in the first round, a runoff is necessary against the second-placed candidate months later.