Last month’s Austrian presidential election vaulted the country into the international spotlight after nationalist Norbert Hofer and Green politician Alexander Van der Bellen clashed in an acrimonious campaign that rang with the same divisive tones heard ahead of this week’s Brexit vote. After Van der Bellen won the May 22 duel by a whisker — the final count gave him 30,863 lead out of 4.5 million votes — Hofer’s Freedom Party began collecting reports alleging irregularities at the polls. On June 8 they contested the election result before nation’s Constitutional Court. On June 20 the court’s 14 judges began questioning 90 witnesses, mostly election officials and volunteers, in an unprecedented exercise to determine how votes had been counted. A verdict is expected before July 8 — incidentally the day when Van der Bellen is scheduled be inaugurated.
The anti-immigrant party led by Heinz-Christian Strache has focused complaints on absentee ballots. About 760,000 Austrians mailed in ballots or dropped them off in precincts or from different polling stations. Van der Bellen had a clear edge over Hofer among those voters, in line with absentee-voter preferences seen in previous elections.
In its 152-page complaint, the Freedom Party doesn’t claim the count was rigged and Austrian law doesn’t require them to show the results were manipulated. According to previous decision, it’s been sufficient to show that:
Electoral rules were violated
Violations materially affected enough votes to change the result
Freedom Party’s lawyers say they found “illegal procedures” in 94 out of 117 regional election offices.