Left-leaning Alexander Van der Bellen triumphed over his right-wing rival Sunday in the vote for Austria's presidency, a victory welcomed by moderate politicians across Europe as a blow against the populist forces looking to weaken the European Union. While the Austrian presidency is a mostly symbolic post, it had attracted attention from across Europe as the next possible victory for populists after Donald Trump's presidential win in the United States and the Brexit vote in Britain, the AP reports. "What happens here today has relevance for all of Europe," Van der Bellen said he cast his ballot, later noting that his win showed most voters backed his message of "freedom, equality, solidarity."
Van der Bellen said the win sends a "message to the capitals of the European Union that one can win elections with high European positions." He said he would work to unite a country deeply split between the moderate liberals who voted for him and supporters of Hofer's anti-immigrant Freedom Party. Powerful euroskeptic populist politicians facing elections next year in other EU nations shrugged off Hofer's loss as a temporary setback, but the result was greeted with relief and congratulations by mainstream politicians including French President Francois Hollande, who said Austrians "made the choice of Europe, and openness." (Read more Austria stories.)