Austria’s right-wing, populist Freedom Party on Wednesday challenged the result of the presidential election it narrowly lost last month, injecting fresh uncertainty into a country already in political turmoil amid Europe’s migrant crisis. The party alleged “catastrophic” violations of election law centering on what it said was the improper processing of mail-in ballots in the May 22 vote. “We have always said that we will not challenge the election for the sake of challenging the election,” party chairman Heinz-Christian Strache said. “But the disaster around how the vote was counted cannot be accepted without comment.” The mail-in ballots are a key point of contention in part because a big margin of victory there helped independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen, who was supported by the left-of-center Greens, beat out the Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer in the runoff.
While the presidency is a largely symbolic post in Austria, Mr. Hofer’s near-win drew international attention because it showed how voter anger over the migrant crisis was scrambling politics. A spokesman for Austria’s Constitutional Court, Christian Neuwirth, confirmed it had received the Freedom Party’s “rather extensive” challenge.
The document alleged election law violations that Austrian officials have already acknowledged, including that officials in some districts began counting mail-in ballots earlier than allowed by law, as well as others not previously known, he said.