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Austria likely to vote again in October

Kate BradyJuly 5, 2016

Austrian voters could be heading to the polls again on October 2 for a rerun of the presidential election. The initial vote, narrowly won by the Green candidate in May, was annulled over irregularities in vote counting.

Alexander van der Bellen and Norbert Hofer
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Wieser

Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka announced shortly before a government meeting on Tuesday that he would submit the proposal to the government, adding that he hoped the council of ministers would agree. The date of October 2 is yet to be formally confirmed by parliament.

Green candidate Alexander Van der Bellen won the run-off election in May by a slim margin against far-right contender Norbert Hofer.

Hofer's Freedom Party contested the result, however, alleging that ballot papers were sorted and counted prematurely. The far-right party also claimed that in a significant number of voting districts, ballots were counted without proper supervision.

Court orders rerun

After four days of questioning more than 60 witnesses, Austria's Constitutional Court confirmed on Friday that there had been widespread irregularities in May's election and ordered the vote to be retaken.

The court found irregularities in 14 of the 20 investigated constituencies, which affected some 77,000 votes. Green Party candidate van der Bellen had only led the right-wing populist Norbert Hofer by 30,863 votes, so judges could not rule out the possibility that the overall election result was distorted.

Both van der Bellen and Norbert Hofer were quick to praise the court's decision.

"I respect the decision, that is clear," van der Bellen said, adding that he "expects to win a second time."

His opponent Hofer said he has a "real desire for another election campaign."

Following the court's ruling, as of July 8, when the term of the outgoing president ends, the Hofburg Palace will remain temporarily vacant.

Official duties will be carried out in the interim by a three-party committee consisting of top parliamentarians.