Austria presidential poll result overturned
Austria’s highest court has annulled the result of the presidential election narrowly lost by the candidate of the far-right Freedom Party.
The party had challenged the result, saying that postal votes had been improperly handled.
The Freedom Party candidate, Norbert Hofer, lost the election to the former leader of the Greens, Alexander Van der Bellen, by less than a percentage point.
The election will now be re-run.
Announcing the decision, Gerhard Holzinger, head of the Constitutional Court, said: “The challenge brought by Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache against the 22 May election… has been upheld.”
In two weeks of hearings, lawyers for the Freedom Party argued that postal ballots were illegally handled in 94 out of 117 districts.
It alleged that thousands of votes were opened earlier than permitted under election rules and some were counted by people unauthorised to do so.
The party also claimed to have evidence that some under-16s and foreigners had been allowed to vote.
If elected, Mr Hofer will become the first far-right head of state of an EU country.
His party has based its election campaigns around concern over immigration and falling living standards for the less well-off.
Following the court’s order to re-run the vote, President Heinz Fischer will be replaced on a temporary basis by three parliamentary officials, including Mr Hofer.
The new election is expected to be held in September or October.
What powers does the Austrian president have?
It is a mostly ceremonial post. But the president does have the power to dissolve the National Council – the more powerful lower house of parliament. That triggers a general election.
The president can only do that once for a particular reason – he cannot use the same grounds to dissolve it again.
It is the chancellor’s job to appoint government ministers. And the chancellor has the power to dismiss the government. But ministers have to be formally sworn in by the president.