Austrian election risks coming unstuck due to faulty envelopes

Austrian election risks coming unstuck due to faulty envelopes
Alexander Van der Bellen says every voter has the right to have their vote counted. Photo: ORF
Austria's hopes of finally electing a new president on October 2 are looking increasingly doubtful because of problems with glue on postal votes coming unstuck.

The previous election result from May was declared null and void on July 1 after Austria's highest court upheld claims of procedural irregularities brought by the narrowly-defeated far-right.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka apologised for the “technical shortcomings” of the postal votes on Friday, giving the printing company until later in the day to clarify the situation.

“If the election cannot be properly carried out because of an apparent
production problem, then it is my responsibility… to quickly consider a
postponement,” he said in a statement.

The overturning of May's election result already caused Austria considerable embarrassment, and commentators were again on Friday likening the wealthy EU member state to a “banana republic”.

The May 22 election saw independent ecologist Alexander Van der Bellen
narrowly beat Norbert Hofer of the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPOe) by just 31,000 votes.

The FPOe has stoked concerns about recent immigration and should Hofer win the election, it would see Austria becoming the first country in Europe since 1945 to elect a far-right president.

The role of the Austrian president is largely — but not entirely — ceremonial but a victory by Hofer would still be a major boost to Europe's surging populist movements.