The Latest: German FM pleased with Austrian result

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Posted: Dec 04, 2016 5:50 PM
The Latest: German FM pleased with Austrian result

VIENNA (AP) — The Latest on Austria's presidential election (all times local):

11:15 p.m.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says he's "happy" with the results of the presidential election in Austria, calling it "a good sign against populism in Europe."

In Austria, left-leaning Alexander Van der Bellen defeated right-wing rival Norbert Hofer, a victory welcomed by moderate politicians across Europe seeking to thwart advances by right-wing populist forces looking to weaken the European Union.

Steinmeier says that Van der Bellen's victory "would be a good sign against populism in Europe and a sign for which I am not only happy but I am also happy because we got this news here in Greece, at the cradle of European democracy."

Steinmeier made his remarks at a press conference in Athens after a meeting with his Greek counterpart, Nikos Kotzias.

Steinmeier, a Social Democrat who is slated to become Germany's president next March after the Christian Democrat/Social Democrat ruling coalition agreed on his candidacy, is on a two-day official visit to Greece.

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9:05 p.m.

A count of all the votes cast Sunday in Austria's presidential election shows left-leaning Alexander Van der Bellen winning by 51.68 percent to 48.32 percent for right-winger Norbert Hofer.

Austrian pollsters, however, say the split will grow to 53.3 percent to 46.7 percent in favor of Van der Bellen when the approximately 500,000 absentee votes are also tallied. Official results will have to wait until those votes are added.

Absentee ballot counting begins Monday with results expected by Tuesday at the latest.

Mainstream politicians in Austria, Germany and France have hailed Van der Bellen's win as a vote for European unity and tolerance.

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8:55 p.m.

France's president is welcoming the victory of a left-leaning president in Austria over a far-right challenger as a vote for European unity and tolerance.

French President Francois Hollande says Sunday night that he "warmly congratulates Alexander Van der Bellen for the clear and uncontested result" in Austria's presidential election.

Hollande says "the Austrian people made the choice of Europe, and openness."

France is facing another major test of Europe's populist forces in its presidential election in five months, as far-right leader Marine Le Pen hopes to ride swelling anti-immigrant, anti-EU sentiment to the presidency. Hollande is not running for re-election.

Le Pen tweeted her congratulations to the loser of Austria's vote, Norbert Hofer of the euroskeptic Freedom Party, saying they "fought with courage. Victory will be theirs in the next legislative elections!"

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8:40 p.m.

Alexander Van der Bellen says his triumph over a right-wing rival in Austria's presidential election shows that votes within the European Union can be won by candidates who are strongly pro-EU.

Van der Bellen is alluding to fears by establishment politicians elsewhere in Europe that right-winger Norbert Hofer would prevail with his euroskeptic message.

Van der Bellen said his win Sunday sends a "message to the capitals of the European Union that one can win elections with high European positions."

Hofer says his loss "is really very painful ... but the voter is always right in a democracy."

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7:45 p.m.

Winning Austrian presidential candidate Alexander Van der Bellen says his victory over right-wing populist Norbert Hofer shows that most voters backed his message of "freedom, equality, solidarity."

In brief comments after near-final results Sunday showed him ahead with an unbeatable margin, Van der Bellen said he would work to unite a country deeply split between the moderate liberals who voted for him and the supporters of Hofer's euroskeptic, anti-immigrant Freedom Party.

Final results will not be available until more than 500,000 absentee ballots are counted Monday. But with most ballots cast Sunday counted, Van der Bellen had 53.3 percent of the vote to Hofer's 46.7 percent.

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7:20 p.m.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has congratulated Alexander Van der Bellen for his victory over right-winger Norbert Hofer in the country's presidential election.

Kern says he is "convinced that we will have a president with Van der Bellen who will represent Austria domestically and abroad in an excellent manner."

He was alluding to fears by mainstream politicians in Austria that a victory by Hofer, whose Freedom Party is critical of the 28-nation European Union, would hurt Austria's image abroad.

Partial results after the polls closed Sunday showed Van der Bellen with 53.3 percent of the vote and Hofer with 46.7 percent.

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7 p.m.

The president of the European Parliament says left-leaning candidate Alexander Van der Bellen's victory in Austria marks a defeat for "anti-European, backward-looking populism."

Martin Schulz, who is a center-left Social Democrat from Germany, congratulated Van der Bellen on winning Austria's presidency "with a clear pro-European message and campaign."

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

Partial results after the polls closed Sunday showed Van der Bellen with 53.3 percent of the vote and right-wing Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer at 46.7 percent.

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6:20 p.m.

Left-leaning Alexander Van der Bellen's projected victory in Austria's presidential election is being welcomed across much of the political spectrum in neighboring Germany.

Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, who heads Germany's center-left Social Democrats, told the Bild newspaper: "A load has been taken off the mind of all of Europe." He called the result "a clear victory for good sense against right-wing populism."

Manfred Weber, a conservative who heads the main center-right group in the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter: "Austrians send clear pro-European signal. The European right-wing populists' party is off for now."

Ulrich Kelber, a deputy German justice minister and Social Democrat, wrote: "Perhaps (Donald) Trump's election was the turning point. The liberal majority pushes back."

A leader of Germany's opposition Greens, Simone Peter, said it was "a good day for Austria and Europe. The right-wing rabble-rousers have to be stopped!"

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6 p.m.

Austrian right-wing candidate Norbert Hofer has conceded to his left-leaning rival in the country's presidential election.

Hofer says in a Facebook post that he is "endlessly sad" about his loss, adding, "I would have been happy to take care of our Austria."

Hofer conceded as preliminary results showed Alexander Van der Bellen ahead with 53.3 percent of the vote compared to Hofer's 46.7 percent. Those figures may change, but election officials say the margin is big enough to guarantee Van der Bellen's victory.

Hofer congratulated his rival and urged Austrians to "stick together and to work together."

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5:20 p.m.

The first official results from the Austrian presidential election show left-leaning candidate Alexander Van der Bellen with what appears to be an unbeatable lead over right-winger Norbert Hofer.

The results, released shortly after the polls closed Sunday, show Van der Bellen with 53.5 percent of the vote. Hofer has 46.4 percent.

While votes continue to be counted, officials say they will not change the outcome but the percentages may still vary.

The margin is a surprise. Polls ahead of Sunday's vote had shown the two candidates neck-and-neck.

The election is a court-ordered rerun of a May vote that Van der Bellen won by less than 1 percentage point.

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2 p.m.

Austrian right-wing populist Norbert Hofer is focused on reassuring the country that he is not the radical some opponents accuse him of being.

Hofer says that both he and his left-leaning rival, Alexander Van der Bellen, are "level-headed people." And he says he wouldn't push for a referendum on Austria's exit from the European Union but would focus instead on the EU's positive development.

Hofer spoke before casting his ballot Sunday. With most Austrians critical of the European Union but not to the point of wanting to leave it, Hofer Freedom Party no longer suggests that Austria would be better off outside the EU.

Instead, it is pushing for an EU of loosely allied members mostly sharing economic ties.

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12:55 p.m.

Left-leaning candidate Alexander Van der Bellen says that the presidential election he hopes to win has meaning well beyond Austria.

Van der Bellen is running against right-wing populist Norbert Hofer. The results are seen as a barometer of how well other euroskeptic candidates like Hofer will do elsewhere in the EU in national elections next year.

He said as he cast his ballot that "what happens here today has relevance for all of Europe."

The election is a rerun from May, which Van der Bellen narrowly won. It is being re-held following a court ruling after Hofer's Freedom Party claimed widespread irregularities.

Van der Bellen also expressed hope that Italian Premier Matteo Renzi wins a referendum on constitutional reforms that will be decisive for Renzi's political future.

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10:50 a.m.

As Austrians start casting ballots for president, their comments reflect a tight race between left-leaning Alexander Van der Bellen and right-wing populist Norbert Hofer.

Guenther Poiker is unequivocal, saying outside of a Vienna polling station "I'm a Van der Bellen voter." But Alexander Mautner figures that "Hofer is going to win, by a very small margin."

The election is a rerun from May, which Van der Bellen won by less than 1 percentage point. It is being re-held following a court ruling after Hofer's Freedom Party claimed widespread irregularities.

Austria's presidency is a mostly ceremonial post. But the election is being watched as a barometer of how populists in other European Union countries may fare in coming months.

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7:30 a.m.

In an election sure to reverberate across Europe, Austrian voters are choosing between a right-wing populist and a left-leaning former politician for their next president.

Austria's presidency is a mostly ceremonial post. But the Sunday election is being watched as a barometer of how populists in other European Union countries may fare in coming months.

The Austrian vote pits Alexander Van der Bellen against Norbert Hofer. A former leading member of the Greens Party, Van der Bellen is the hope of Austrians who want to stop Hofer, a popular leader of the anti-migrant and anti-EU Freedom Party.

Most polling stations opened at 7 a.m. and will close at 5 p.m. local time. Results are expected late Sunday, but the winner may not be known until absentee ballots are counted on Monday.