Austria’s Constitutional Court has said it will rule Friday on the challenge brought by the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) against its candidate’s narrow defeat in May’s presidential election. The court, which has heard from around 90 witnesses during two weeks of public hearings, said Thursday it would announce at noon (1000 GMT) whether the election result was valid or a new vote must be held. The FPOe’s Norbert Hofer, 54, topped the poll in the first round of the election in April but lost out to 72-year-old Alexander Van der Bellen, an independent backed by the Greens, by just 30,863 votes in the May 22 run-off.
Hofer, who would have been the first far-right head of state of an EU country if elected, alleged numerous procedural irregularities in the vote.
Preliminary results on the evening of the election had given him a narrow lead but after some 700,000 postal votes were counted, Van der Bellen was declared the winner of the largely ceremonial post.
The court hearings confirmed that tens of thousands of postal votes were counted in an irregular manner — either because they were counted after the allocated time or by people not authorised to do so.