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Far-right FPÖ to challenge presidential election results in Austria

The far-right Austrian party FPÖ has filed a legal challenge against the results of last month's presidential election, the Constitutional Court has said. The party's leader said there were "terrifying" irregularities.

A challenge to the presidential election runoff was filed by Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Heinz-Christian Strache, Christian Neuwirth, spokesman for Austria's Constitutional Court, said on Twitter.

In the election in May, postal ballots pushed former leader of the Green Party, Alexander Van der Bellen - who ran as an independent - over the line to defeat FPÖ candidate Norbert Hofer. The margin of victory was under 1 percentage point, or roughly 31,000 votes.

Watch video 00:49

Presidential candidate Hofer casts his vote

"Without these glitches, irregularities and breaking of laws, Hofer could have become president," Strache said after filing an official challenge at the Constitutional Court. "I think a re-election is very realistic," Strache said.

Lawyers for the anti-immigration Freedom Party said they had found evidence that over 573,000 absentee and postal ballots had been handled without the presence of local election commissions, creating the risk of tampering. The legal challenge is designed to address 94 out of a total of 117 electoral districts in Austria. In one particular district, the FPÖ remarked that the vote tally implied that 146,9 percent of the local population had allegedly cast votes.

"One doesn't have to be a conspiracy theorist to have a bad feeling about this," Strache told reporters. "We are not bad losers. Rather it is about the foundations of democracy, which must be secured," he added.

Without going into details, he said he felt obligated to challenge the result because "the extent of irregularities is more than terrifying." He also said "without these irregularities Hofer could have become president."

Preliminary results on May 22 put Hofer slightly ahead in pre-election polls, but postal votes gave Van der Bellen the edge in the largely ceremonial but coveted presidency.

Since then, the FPÖ has complained of irregularities in the election.

A victory for Hofer would have made Austria the first European Union member with a

far-right

president.

The Constitutional Court will rule on the matter by July 8, when Van der Bellen is set succeed Social Democratic incumbent Heinz Fischer, a court spokesman said.

jbh, ss/sms, kms (Reuters, AFP)

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