A photo-finish presidential election which saw the Green party snatch victory from the insurgent Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) is now being challenged after irregularities were detected in 94 of 117 electoral districts.
The election was regarded as a watershed moment in European politics, as the final-round vote to select the most senior role in Austrian politics was, for the first time since the 1940s, from neither of the establishment parties featured.
Yet even before the count finished the candidacy of Left-Green veteran politician Alexander Van der Bellen was embroiled in a postal vote scandal.
While reports of some regions in Austria seeing voter turnouts of hundreds of per cent were initially dismissed as down to computer error and not reflecting the actual numbers of votes cast, there is genuine concern about the integrity of the absentee postal voting system. Austria’s Kronen Zeitung reports some 570,000 voting cards could be affected — and the election was carried by just 30,000 votes, or around 0.6 per cent.
FPÖ party leader Heinz-Christian Strache said there were problems — “illegalities” — with these postal ballots in 94 of 117 districts. In addition to these problems, the party also claims to have evidence of citizens under the legal age of 16 voting, as well as individuals who aren’t even citizens at all.
A week before the vote Freedom Party secretary Herbert Kickl had spoken out over the “unusually high number” of postal ballots requested, warning “[postal votes] repeatedly show inconsistencies”.
These complaints have been raised in a 150-page report compiled by the FPÖ and handed to the Austrian constitutional court today, reports Welt. The appeal will now be considered by the court, and a judgement will be heard before 8 July — the official swearing-in date of the new president.
A returning officer quoted by the paper said, at best, the investigation would lead only to a partial re-run of the affected areas, but given that nearly all districts are implicated in the complaint it could in effect lead to a third round of voting.
Despite the clear self-interest the FPÖ has in this case, party leader Mr. Strache has said the report isn’t entirely motivated by a desire to see his candidate Norbert Hofer in the Hofburg palace. He said: “We are not sore losers, because this is about the very foundation of democracy. Without these mistakes and irregularities, Mr. Hofer could have become president.
“I feel obliged to contest the election because of [these problems].”
The FPÖ has differentiated themselves from the Austrian political mainstream through their robust stance on mass migration, and the European Union. During the election, Mr. Hofer campaigned on a slogan of “Austria first”, and said during the campaign: “I don’t want this to become a Muslim country”.
Breitbart London reported this week on a new video released by a regional FPÖ politician which makes light of the migrant crisis, warning would-be Arabic-speaking rapists to keep their “hands off our women!!!”
The video, which had signs in pidgin-Arabic, suggested transgressors could find themselves on a flight home.