VIENNA (AP) — The law-and-order candidate of Austria’s right-wing party swept the first round of presidential elections on Sunday, winning over 35 percent of the vote for the party’s best ever result. Government coalition contenders were among the five losers, signaling deep voter rejection and political uncertainty ahead.
The triumph by Norbert Hofer eclipses his Freedom Party’s best previous national showing — more than 27 percent support in 1996 elections that decided Austria’s membership in the European Union.
His declared willingness to challenge the governing coalition of center-left Social Democrats and centrist People’s Party spells potential confrontation ahead — Hofer might push for new parliamentary elections should he win the May 22 runoff in hopes that his Freedom Party will triumph.
Preliminary final results with absentee ballots still to be counted gave Hofer 35.5 percent support, far ahead of Alexander Van der Bellen of the Greens party who ran as an independent. Still, with 20.4 percent backing, he will challenge Hofer in the second round.
Independent Irmgard Griss came in third. At 18.5 percent, she was still ahead of People’s Party candidate Andreas Khol and Social Democrat Rudolf Hundstorfer, both slightly above 11 percent. Political outsider Richard Lugner was last, with 2.4 percent.
With the candidates of establishment parties shut out of the office for the first time since Austria’s political landscape was reformed after World War II, Freedom Party chief Heinz-Christian Strache hailed the “historic event” that he said reflected massive “voter dissatisfaction.”
Still, Van der Bellen remained in the running. Many of those who voted for other candidates are likely to swing behind him in the runoff in hopes he will defeat Hofer and the Freedom Party.
“That was the first round,” Van der Bellen said. “The second one will decide.”
Hofer’s triumph was significant nonetheless, and in line with recent polls showing Freedom Party popularity. Driven by concerns over Europe’s migrant crisis, support for his party has surged to 32 percent compared with just over 20 percent for each of the governing parties.
But voters were unhappy with the Social Democrats and the People’s Party even before the migrant influx last year forced their coalition government to swing from open borders to tough asylum restrictions. Decades of bickering over key issues — most recently tax, pension and education reform — has fed perceptions of political stagnation.
Reflecting voter dissatisfaction, an ORF/SORA/ISA poll of 1,210 eligible voters released Sunday after balloting ended showed only 19 percent “satisfied” with the government’s work. Its margin of error was 2.8 percentage points.
Vienna Social Democratic Mayor Michael Haeupl spoke of “a catastrophic result,” but even worse could lie ahead for both his and the People’s Party. As president, Hofer has threatened to call a new national election.
That would likely result in a Freedom Party victory and could move Austria closer to the camp of anti-immigrant Eurosceptic EU nations, further complicating joint European Union attempts to solve the migrant crisis and find consensus on other divisive issues.
An Austrian president has the powers to dismiss a government. But none has since the office was newly defined after World War II. Instead, the role has been traditionally ceremonial, with presidents rarely going beyond gentle criticism of the government.
Trying to ease concerns that he would be too confrontational in office, Hofer told reporters that he would be “there for all Austrians.”
“No one need be afraid,” he told reporters.
Still, he added “that does not mean that I reject my principles.” Alluding to his threat, he said that with him as president, the present government would “face serious difficulties” if it didn’t change its course.
Political uncertainty may lie ahead, even if Hofer is defeated.
Van der Bellen has vowed not to swear in any Freedom Party politician as Austria’s chancellor if he wins Sunday’s vote.
The president has a six-year mandate. Because parliamentary elections that will decide the next chancellor must be held by 2018, possible confrontation looms between the Freedom Party and Van der Bellen, should he triumph.
Associated Press video journalist Philipp Jenne contributed to this report.
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish authorities on Sunday released a Turkish-Dutch journalist from police custody but barred her from leaving Turkey as they continue to investigate tweets she posted about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ebru Umar, a columnist for Metro newspaper, was detained for questioning late on Saturday at her home in the Aegean resort of Kusadasi, on the orders of a prosecutor for social media postings deemed to be “insulting to state leaders,” Turkey’s state-run news agency reported. The journalist had tweeted in Dutch late Saturday that police were at her door and that she was being taken to a police station in Kusadasi.
Anadolu Agency said she was released following questioning by prosecutors but has been barred from leaving the country.
In a short video posted on Metro’s website, Umar said she was woken up Saturday night by two police officers knocking on her door who told her to go with them because of two tweets.
“I was treated well, I can’t put it any other way,” she said. “I had a good evening with a 55-year-old man discussing politics and the situation in Turkey.”
She said she “is not altogether free. I am not allowed to leave the country.” She said a lawyer is trying to get the travel restriction lifted because she wants to return to the Netherlands.
Human rights and media freedom groups have repeatedly sounded the alarm over the limited tolerance of dissent shown by authorities in Turkey, where nearly 2,000 legal cases have been opened against individuals accused of insulting the Turkish president since Erdogan came to office in 2014. Critics say the president is taking advantage of a previously-seldom used law to muzzle dissenting voices..
Umar was detained as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and top EU officials were in Turkey to bolster a deal to stem the flow of migrants to Europe. The EU leaders have been accused of not speaking out against Turkey’s crackdown on freedom of expression because of the country’s role in stopping the refugee influx. Merkel has come under criticism for her decision earlier this month to grant Turkey’s request to let German prosecutors and courts decide whether a German comedian insulted Erdogan.
In a tweet, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he had called Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in the afternoon. Rutte said Umar’s detention “Directly hits our core values — freedom of expression and press freedom.”
Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said he was relieved Umar had been released and said he had informed Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that he “deplored” the situation.
“A candidate member of the EU should not meddle with press freedom and freedom of expression,” Koenders said in a statement. “I have often stressed that in discussions with Turkish colleagues and will continue to do so. It is necessary, as has been shown again.”
Umar wrote a column last week for Metro criticizing an appeal sent by Turkey’s consulate in Rotterdam urging Turks in the Netherlands to report cases of people insulting Turkey or its leader. She compared the letter to “NSB practices,” a reference to the Dutch branch of the Nazi party before and during World War II.
Rutte last week responded to reports of the appeal by saying “it is not a good thing and our ambassador will ask for clarification from the Turkish authorities.”
Earlier this week, a German reporter was detained at an Istanbul airport and sent back to Cairo where he is based. A day later, authorities denied entry into Turkey for Russian news agency Sputnik’s Istanbul-based general manager.
Mike Corder in The Hague contributed to this report.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A solar-powered airplane on a journey around the world was preparing to land in California on Saturday night to complete a risky, three-day flight across the Pacific Ocean.
The Solar Impulse 2 was flying in a holding pattern off the San Francisco coast on 70 percent of stored energy while waiting for winds to decrease for landing at Moffett Airfield in Mountain View.
The aircraft performed a fly-by over the Golden Gate Bridge in the late afternoon following 56 hours of flight that began Thursday morning in Hawaii.
“I crossed the bridge. I am officially in America,” pilot Bertrand Piccard declared as he flew over the iconic span as spectators watched the narrow aircraft with extra wide wings from below.
Piccard said stopping in Silicon Valley, where the airfield is located, will help link the daring project to the pioneering spirit of the area.
“Can you imagine crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on a solar-powered plane just like ships did in past centuries? But the plane doesn’t make noise and doesn’t pollute,” Piccard said a live video feed on the website documenting the journey.
“It’s a priority to link the project we have with the pioneering spirit in Silicon Valley,” he added.
The aircraft started its around-the-world journey in March 2015 from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and made stops in Oman, Myanmar, China and Japan. It’s on the ninth leg of its circumnavigation.
The trans-Pacific leg of his journey is the riskiest part of the solar plane’s global travels because of the lack of emergency landing sites.
After uncertainty about winds, the plane took off from Hawaii on Thursday morning. The crew that helped it take off was clearing out of its Hawaiian hangar and headed for the mainland for the weekend arrival.
At one point passengers on a Hawaiian Air jet caught a glimpse of the Solar Impulse 2 before the airliner sped past the slow-moving aircraft.
The Solar Impulse 2 landed in Hawaii in July and was forced to stay in the islands after the plane’s battery system sustained heat damage on its trip from Japan.
Piccard’s co-pilot Andre Borschberg flew the leg from Japan to Hawaii. He was aboard a helicopter to welcome Piccard as he approached the Bay Area.
The team was delayed in Asia, as well. When first attempting to fly from Nanjing, China, to Hawaii, the crew had to divert to Japan because of unfavorable weather and a damaged wing.
A month later, when weather conditions were right, the plane departed from Nagoya in central Japan for Hawaii.
The plane’s ideal flight speed is about 45 kph, or 28 mph, though that can double during the day when the sun’s rays are strongest. The carbon-fiber aircraft weighs more than 5,000 pounds, or about as much as a midsize truck.
The wings of Solar Impulse 2, which stretch wider than those of a Boeing 747, are equipped with 17,000 solar cells that power propellers and charge batteries. The plane runs on stored energy at night.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Latest on the flight of a solar-powered airplane from Hawaii to California in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe (all times local):
A solar-powered airplane is preparing to land in Northern California after flying for three days across the Pacific Ocean.
Solar Impulse 2 has been flying in a holding pattern off the San Francisco coast while waiting for winds to decrease for landing in Mountain View.
The aircraft reached the Golden Gate Bridge Saturday afternoon following 56 hours of flight that began Thursday morning in Hawaii. The trans-Pacific leg of the journey is the riskiest part of the solar plane’s global travels because of the lack of emergency landing sites.
Solar Impulse 2 is on an around-the-world journey to promote renewable energy and the spirit of innovation.
A solar-powered airplane has reached the San Francisco Bay area following 56 hours of flight over the Pacific Ocean.
Pilot Bertrand Piccard is performing a fly-by over the Golden Gate Bridge as spectators watch the narrow plane with extra-wide wings from below.
Earlier, Piccard said he was excited to get the chance to fly over the iconic span in a plane that doesn’t make noise and doesn’t pollute.
The aircraft will loiter aloft until midnight when winds will decrease for landing at Moffett Airfield in Mountain View.
Solar Impulse 2 is on an around-the-world journey to promote renewable energy and the spirit of innovation. The plane took off last March from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and it has made stops in Oman, Myanmar, China, Japan and Hawaii.
The pilot of a solar-powered airplane on an around-the-world journey says stopping in California’s Silicon Valley will help link the daring project to the pioneering spirit of the area.
Pilot Bertrand Piccard, who left Hawaii three days ago, says he hopes to fly over San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge before landing in Mountain View.
Piccard said Saturday on a live video feed on the website documenting the journey that he is very excited of the chance to fly over the iconic bridge in a plane that doesn’t make noise and doesn’t pollute.
Piccard is expected to land in Northern California late Saturday.
A solar-powered airplane on an around-the-world journey has traveled 80 percent of the way from Hawaii to California.
The project’s website says the Solar Impulse 2 aircraft is 48 hours into a three-day flight over the Pacific.
The aircraft’s destination on this leg of the journey is Mountain View, California, at the southern end of San Francisco Bay.
The aircraft’s wings are covered with solar cells to take energy from the sun to power the motors turning its propellers. During darkness it relies on energy stored in batteries.
As the sun rose over the Pacific on Saturday, the plane’s batteries began charging again.
The aircraft started its journey in March 2015 from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
BERLIN (AP) — When President Barack Obama opens the world’s largest industrial fair in the northern German city of Hannover on Sunday, he’ll be leading a delegation of American companies hoping to conquer new markets abroad. He’ll also be trying to complete one of his presidency’s main pieces of unfinished business — a trans-Atlantic trade pact.
Officials in Washington and Brussels are trying to clinch key parts of the deal before the end of the year, after which a new U.S. president and election campaigns in major European countries could complicate negotiations.
Proponents of the agreement — known as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP — argue that lowering tariffs and harmonizing rules would give a much-needed boost to businesses at a time of global economic uncertainty. Or as Obama put it when the talks launched three years ago: “New growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.”
But this rosy view of TTIP hasn’t caught the public’s imagination, particularly in Germany.
More than 100,000 people protested in Berlin in November against the proposed pact. On Saturday, police estimated some 35,000 marched against it in Hannover, carrying placards with slogans such as “Yes We Can — Stop TTIP!” Organizers put the turnout at 90,000.
Trade unions, nationalists and green groups have lobbied hard against the deal, claiming that it will drive down wages, erode consumer protection and environmental standards.
The discussions, due to resume on Monday in New York, have come under criticism for the secretive manner in which they’ve been conducted. National lawmakers are only allowed to view draft documents in special reading rooms and are forbidden from talking about the documents with experts, the media or their constituents.
Proposals to create dispute settlement tribunals have also stoked fears.
EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom envisages special investment courts that would rule in disputes between governments and companies that feel they face undue legal hurdles to their business.
Critics say such courts could place the interests of corporations above those of democratically elected governments, citing a recent case where tobacco giant Philip Morris sued Uruguay over a law requiring graphic warnings on cigarette packages.
Alfred de Zayas, an American law professor and U.N. human rights expert, argues that such courts are unnecessary in countries that abide by the rule of law, such as the United States or the EU’s 28 nations.
Backers of the special courts say they would prevent cases from being heard by American jurors who don’t understand the complexities of international trade law, and ensure that U.S. companies don’t face discrimination in European countries with high rates of corruption.
Juergen Hardt, a German lawmaker and the government’s coordinator for trans-Atlantic cooperation, believes some of those leading the fight against TTIP “have other motivations” beyond trade.
“They also want to incite anti-American feelings,” he said.
The EU’s executive branch is trying to promote the benefits of a deal. On its website, it suggests that TTIP will boost demand for European delicacies like cheese, hams, wine, olive oil, spirits, and chocolate.
“High tariffs at U.S. customs — up to 30 percent — make some of these hard for Americans to afford — and difficult for European farmers and firms to export,” it says.
TTIP’s backers hope images of Obama in Europe — where his popularity remains high — will counter those of tens of thousands protesting the deal.
“One of the main misunderstandings is that we’d be doing the Americans a big favor,” said Hardt. “As an export nation, where more jobs depend on export than in any other country, Germany has the greatest interest in free trade. So I think the Americans would be doing us more of a favor agreeing to such a pact than the other way around.”
In her weekly video message Saturday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said everything has been done to improve the transparency of the negotiations — within reason. And she stated anew that European standards won’t be eroded.
“We are not falling behind our standards, but securing those we have in Europe today on the environment and consumer protection,” she said.
Yet time may be running out for a deal. A spokesman for Germany’s Economy Ministry told The Associated Press that no draft proposals have been exchanged about numerous areas of negotiation. The two sides are also divided about the issue of tariff reductions and the opening up of the markets for services and procurement.
“In order to achieve negotiating success this year, it will be crucial to make significant progress by the summer on technical questions, so that the final negotiations are restricted to a few, politically sensitive areas,” said Andreas Audretsch, the ministry spokesman.
Follow Frank Jordans on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/wirereporter
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — So, it turns out you don’t have to be nominated to become the Republican presidential nominee.
At least for now.
That’s one rules oddity that became clear last week as the 168 members of the Republican National Committee and top party functionaries met in beachside splendor to discuss the GOP’s messy search for a consensus presidential candidate. Three months from now, the 2,472 delegates to the party’s nominating convention in Cleveland will have to decide whether to recast that or other bylaws that will help decide who becomes GOP standard-bearer in the November elections.
Some impressions from last week’s RNC meetings:
I HEREBY NOMINATE …
In a background briefing for reporters, GOP officials shed light on a curious anomaly.
Under current rules, the party conducts an initial roll call to formally place in nomination those vying to become the GOP presidential candidate. But you don’t have to be among the competitors nominated to receive delegates’ votes when the convention holds its next ballot — or ballots — to choose the party’s actual nominee.
Of the GOP’s existing 42 rules, the most discussed is 40(b). It says that to be among those nominated, candidates must submit certificates showing support by a majority of delegates from at least eight states.
Yet the aides also noted that there’s another rule — 16(a)(2). It says that during voting to select a final nominee, the votes of delegates required by their states to support a specific candidate must be tallied for that person. GOP officials said that is true even if that candidate failed to be formally nominated in the initial roll call.
“Unbound” delegates — 150 to 200 in the first ballot, many more in later ballots — can also vote for whoever they want, whether that contender has been formally nominated or not.
Does this open the door for an outsider candidate elbowing aside frontrunners Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and capturing the nomination? Perhaps.
Why does the GOP have rule 40(b) at all?
It was approved at the 2012 convention, controlled by that year’s candidate, Mitt Romney. The rule was aimed at preventing supporters of rival Ron Paul from sapping up valuable television time with a raucous nominating speech, a potential embarrassment to the front-runner.
WILL THE RULES CHANGE IN CLEVELAND?
Yes, and reshaping those conflicting nominating rules is one likely example.
The RNC will recommend rules changes just before the summer convention begins, but those are only suggestions. The rules in Cleveland will be whatever the delegates vote to approve.
Since most delegates will be committed to Trump and Cruz, those men will also have a major say in shaping the convention bylaws as their campaigns and others jockey for advantage.
Trump has repeatedly accused RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and other party leaders of running a nominating process with “rigged” rules. Since many party leaders consider Trump and Cruz likely losers in November, many grassroots Republicans — as well as backers of Trump and Cruz — suspect that leaders hope to allow a “white knight” candidate to ride away with the nomination.
For that scenario, a chief object of suspicion remains House Speaker Paul Ryan, a longtime friend of fellow Wisconsinite Priebus, despite Ryan’s assertion that he won’t accept the nomination.
Sensitive to that skepticism, party officials have repeatedly said they won’t recommend any changes that would expose them to charges that they favor somebody. But at the same time, they admit changes are coming.
As Sean Cairncross, the party’s chief operating officer, said in a video shown Friday to RNC members, “There’s no reason why the rules that governed Romney’s delegates should be used to govern you.”
WHAT CHANGES DO THE CANDIDATES WANT?
If you were Trump or Cruz, you might love new rules that prevent the “white knight” scenario by making fresh nominations impossible. You might also want to free up delegates for former candidates like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ben Carson to support you, instead of sticking with the candidate that state laws or party rules “bind” them to support.
Republicans say operatives for Trump, Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, another hopeful, are working at state conventions to win allies on the national convention’s rules committee. That committee has 112 members, two delegates from each state and territory chosen by each state’s delegation.
“They just want friendly voices” on that committee, said Steve Duprey, an RNC member from New Hampshire.
But there’s a danger in pushing too hard and alienating GOP voters.
“You’ve got to play by the rules or it’s going to be all-out war,” said Dave Agema, the RNC committeeman from Michigan. “If they try anything, the perception will be, ‘You’re trying to change something for someone.'”
With conservatives like Agema up in arms over potential rules changes by the GOP establishment, that puts the presidential campaigns in an awkward position when it comes to speaking openly about any rules changes they might want.
Hence, cautious statements.
“We trust the delegates,” Jeff Roe, Cruz’s campaign manager, told a reporter last week when asked about the rules changes he’d like.