VIENNA, July 1 (UPI) — Austria will schedule another presidential election following Friday’s annulment of the May vote, which was settled by less than 1 percentage point.
The country’s Constitutional Court announced the May runoff vote, narrowly won by Green Party candidate Alexander Van der Bellen over the right-wing Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer, was compromised by inconsistencies in the vote count in several constituencies. The Freedom Party said postal votes were improperly handled by counting prior to the election date, a requirement of Austrian law. Witnesses added they saw some election observers signing minutes of the vote count without reading them.
The Freedom Party challenged the vote count, which sent the issue to the court.
While the court said there was no evidence of vote tampering or manipulation, the number of affected votes totaled 77,296; Van der Bellen defeated Hofer in the May election by 30,863 votes.
The unprecedented ruling by the court came a week before Van der Bellen was to have been inaugurated. Although the Austrian president’s position is largely ceremonial, the vote is symbolic of the fast growth of the Freedom Party and its anti-refugee attitude and its distrust of the country’s political establishment.