Austria postpones presidential election rerun over faulty ballot envelopes

September 12, 2016 6:15 pm

Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka attends a press conference in Vienna, , September 12, 2016. (AP photo)

Austria has postponed the rerun of the country’s presidential election initially scheduled for October 2, citing faulty ballot envelopes.
Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka made the announcement on Monday, saying the rerun election will be held on December 4, due to the poor quality of some envelope adhesive seals.
Austria voted for a new president in May this year, when Alexander Van der Bellen, the Greens Party nominee, narrowly defeated Norbert Hofer of the anti-refugee Freedom Party (FPO) by just 31,000 votes.
However, Austria’s highest court annulled the result in July after the FPO contested the election outcome, claiming major irregularities in the polling procedure.
The court reportedly questioned 60 witnesses, saying most of them confirmed violations in the counting of postal ballots.
Opinion polls in the European country show that Hofer has gained a 4 to 6 percentage point edge over Bellen in recent weeks.

This photo taken on May 22, 2016 shows presidential candidates Alexander Van der Bellen (L) and Norbert Hofer during a television discussion after the second round of the Austrian presidential election at the Hofburg palace in Vienna. (AFP photo)

Austria has been without a president since July 8 when Heinz Fischer stepped down. The president traditionally plays a largely ceremonial role in Austria, but he enjoys the power to fire the cabinet.
Hofer is highly critical of his country’s policies in accepting large numbers of refugees, while Van der Bellen, who has revealed to be a “child of refugees,” has accused his opponent of having an authoritarian view of the president’s powers.
The outcome of the polls would be important for the European Union, which is struggling with an unprecedented influx of refugees who are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria.
Austria took in about 90,000 asylum seekers last year, over one percent of its population.
Many blame major European powers for the unprecedented exodus, saying their policies have led to a surge in terrorism and war in the violence-hit regions, forcing more people out of their homes.
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