Austria’s far-right Freedom party (FPO) has challenged the results of last month’s presidential election, which its candidate narrowly lost, in a move that could tip the country into a constitutional crisis.
The FPO is claiming numerous irregularities in the election on 22 May, particularly for the absentee vote count, Christian Neuwirth, a spokesman for the constitutional court, said.
The FPO candidate, Norbert Hofer, lost to Alexander Van der Bellen, a retired economics professor backed by the Green party, by just 31,000 votes out of more than 4.6m ballots cast, and only after more than 700,000 postal ballots – about 10% of available votes – were taken into account.
The final count showed Van der Bellen with 50.3%, compared to 49.7% for Hofer.
The court challenge could result in at least a partial recount if the court rules in favour of the party, which had suggested it might contest the results shortly after they were announced.
Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache said then that the party had received substantial “diverse information” on possible irregularities. He was scheduled to hold a news conference later on Wednesday morning.
Mirroring the rise of populist parties across Europe, the Freedom party exploitedanti-EU and anti-immigrant sentiment in its election campaign.
In a reflection of voters’ dissatisfaction with mainstream politics, the candidates of both the centre-left Social Democrats and conservative People’s party, which have dominated Austria’s politics since the second world war, were eliminated in the first round of voting in late April. Werner Faymann, the social democratic chancellor, then resigned in early (Associated Press)
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