Austria’s Freedom Party Contests Presidency Result in Court

  • Party leader Strache seeks election rerun on irregularities
  • Vienna’s Constitutional Court has to decide within four weeks

Austria’s populist Freedom Party challenged the result of last month’s presidential election after its candidate Norbert Hofer lost narrowly, citing irregularities affecting about two-thirds of the mail ballots that tipped the balance.

Party head Heinz-Christian Strache contested the election in the Constitutional Court with a 150-page filing, he told reporters in Vienna on Wednesday, the last day the challenge was possible. Strache said the vote must be repeated because more than half a million ballots are affected. Hofer lost the May 22 election to Alexander Van der Bellen by 30,863 votes, according to the final result published June 1 by the interior ministry. 

“Without those glitches and irregularities, Hofer could have become president,” Strache said. “We aren’t bad losers, this is about the pillars of democracy that have to be secured.”

Van der Bellen’s razor-thin victory foiled Hofer’s bid to become the first far-right head of state in western Europe since World War II. After two rounds of voting that exposed the nation’s political divide on migration and relations with the European Union, Van der Bellen, a Green politician who ran as an independent, took 50.35 percent of the vote.

The Constitutional Court has four weeks to decide and hopes to announce its verdict before Van der Bellen’s planned inauguration on July 8, court spokesman Christian Neuwirth said.

Strache’s complaints only affect irregularities regarding postal votes, which were counted a day after the election and tipped the balance in Van der Bellen’s favor. The Freedom Party says it determined irregularities in 94 of 117 voting districts, in which 573,275 such votes were cast. Most of them relate to the premature sorting of the voting envelopes, according to a document the party’s lawyers made available.

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