VIENNA, Austria (AP) — Thomas Klestil won re-election to Austria’s presidency by a landslide Sunday, trouncing four challengers in a lackluster campaign.
The former diplomat won a second six-year term by garnering just over 63 percent of the vote, the second-best result achieved by a presidential candidate in postwar Austria, according to preliminary results.
“The result is a recognition of the correctness of my performance in office,” a tired-looking Klestil said.
The 65-year-old Klestil was the runaway favorite in a campaign that stirred little enthusiasm among Austrians from the start — mostly because the job is largely ceremonial.
Klestil’s challengers included three political newcomers, who struggled merely to rise above obscurity.
About 5.8 million Austrians were eligible to vote. Turnout was about 73 percent, described by officials as the lowest since 1945.
Protestant bishop Gertraud Knoll gained just over 13 percent of the vote, followed by Heide Schmidt, the Liberal Forum party leader, with 11 percent. Building tycoon Richard Lugner gained just under 10 percent, and Karl Walter Nowak, an environmental activist, finished a distant fifth with 1.9 percent.
Knoll was the first churchwoman to run for president in this predominantly Catholic country. She advocated more state assistance for the poor and underprivileged.
“I am happy that I finished second without a party machine behind me,” Knoll said.
The big prize in Austrian politics is still a year away: the general elections that will pick the next chancellor, Austria’s equivalent of prime minister.