By TNO Staff
There is an “extremely likely” chance that the Austrian Constitutional Court will order the presidential elections in that country to be rerun, according to a top constitutional expert at the University of Vienna.
Speaking to Der Standard newspaper, University of Vienna professor Theo Öhlinger also said that two of the complaints in the 150-page document filed with the constitutional court were “very serious.”
One of those complaints is about postal votes being counted in some places by municipal officers rather than the electoral commission as a whole.
Öhlinger added that it was also a serious concern that interim results were being published online before the polling stations had closed.
Such a practice actually opens up the possibility that individuals can easily manipulate the result, Öhlinger said.
Furthermore, he said, there are indications that interim results were circulated on the Internet before the end of polling.
Such projections, he said, were not decisive in themselves, but were illegal in that they could affect peoples’ decision to vote or not, based on how they perceived the election to have been concluded.
It will be up to the court to decide if the FPÖ’s witnesses and allegations will withstand the Constitutional Court’s review, he said.
The run-off presidential election on May 22nd was won by the communist-Green Alexander Van der Bellen, who defeated the Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer by only 30,863 votes—after winning an abnormally high number of postal votes.
Preliminary results on the Sunday initially suggested Hofer had a slight lead, but after 700,000 postal votes were counted, Van der Bellen came out in front in the end with a slim 0.6 percent lead.
Öhlinger believes the court would not recall the election if the irregularities did not look like they would influence the result but “as soon as it approaches 30,000, the election would probably be repeated.”
Although he previously thought this would be unlikely, the professor added that now he has now “revised this opinion.”
The appeal will be heard during the first week of July.
An indication of what likely lies in store came with the decision yesterday by the Constitutional Court to order a rerun of a local election in Vienna.
Elections will have to be repeated in the 2nd District of Vienna (Leopoldstadt), after the Freedom Party challenged those elections in November 2015.
This challenge is separate from the new appeal against the presidential elections, and has no bearing on that latter outcome.
The challenge regarding the local election in Vienna was related to a discrepancy between the amount of ballot papers and the amount of votes cast.
After the first count, the electoral authority counted 82 ballots less than the number of votes cast. A second count, however, showed 23 more ballots than votes cast.
It is unclear how these discrepancies came about, but the court concluded that there had been a violation of the law.
The rerun has been ordered because the communist-Greens beat the Freedom Party in this election by 10,031 to 10,010 votes, a majority of 21.