Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and his wife Doris Schmidauer arrive at the Media Center at the Palais Niederoesterreich during the Austrian presidential elections, in Vienna, Austria, on Sunday. Photo by Christian Bruna/EPA-EFE
Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Alexander Van der Bellen won reelection as Austria's president on Sunday, outright capturing the race with more than 50% of the votes and fending off a runoff election against populist challengers.
Austrian broadcaster ORF called the election Sunday after Van der Bellen secured the absolute majority with more than 55% of the vote.
"Thank you!" Van der Bellen said in a brief message on Twitter after the election was called.
Van der Bellen, 78, is the former leader of the Green Party and was elected to his first term as president in 2016. He has since led the country through the COVID-19 pandemic and the hit to nation's economy amid Russia's war in Ukraine.
An election day poll conducted by ORF with Austria's SORA Institute showed that Austrians voted for Van der Bellen because they did not find the other candidates eligible for office and believe he has proven himself in office.
Walter Rosenkranz, the candidate for the populist Freedom Party of Austria, was in second place for much of the race Sunday but was outperformed in Vienna by Dominik Wlazny in a further rejection of populism in Austria. Still, Rosenkranz held on to more than 17% of the vote.
Wlazny, a rock musician known by the stage name Marco Pogo, is the founder of Austria's Beer Party - a minor satirical party in the country that has advocated for a beer fountain in Vienna.
The party has risen in legitimacy by campaigning on human rights, education and addiction prevention in addition to criticism of pandemic restrictions. Wlazny was holding third with 8.5% of the vote as votes continued to be counted into Sunday night.
Pamela Rendi-Wagner, the leader of the Social Democratic Party of Austria, congratulated Van der Bellen on his election night win.
"The result is a decision in favor of stability and continuity, which is all the more important in times like these," Rendi-Wagner said. "Especially in times of great challenges, continuity and experience at the head of state are important for our country."