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Austrian Establishment Could Delay Presidential Re-Run As Populist Takes Lead

by Chris Tomlinson

Due to an issue with the glue that holds together the envelopes of the postal ballots the Austrian government is considering postponing the Austrian presidential election re-run.

Multiple people across the country have complained that upon receiving their postal ballots they noticed that the glue that holds the return envelope was defective leading to their ballot paper merely falling out.

The Austrian Interior Minister, Wolfgang Sobotka, said that he will consider whether or not this is sufficient grounds to delay the election until at least November reports Kurier.

The calls for the postponement of the election come the most strongly from the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Green party, who’s former leader Alexander Van der Bellen is one of the two candidates along with anti-mass migration Freedom Party (FPÖ) politician Norbert Hofer.

Alexander Van der Bellen has already suspended his campaign upon hearing that the Interior Minister could potentially delay the election. Though Mr. Sobotka has said he is only considering the move, many are preparing for the delay. Sobotka has already arranged a press conference for Monday afternoon where he will announce his decision, but many are unsure if he has the proper authority to do so.

Constitutional lawyer Heinz Mayer claims that any attempt to delay the vote could result in a similar constitutional court case that led to the annulment of the first vote. Mayer said that in order to move the date of the vote the government would have to pass new legislation as currently the Austrian election laws do not allow the Interior Minister to move the vote on his own.

The amendment to the electoral laws could be passed in the matter of a week if the parliament can agree to a two-thirds majority. Some believe that such an amendment may be proposed on Tuesday if Sobotka decides to postpone the election.

The campaign of FPÖ candidate Norbert Hofer has reacted to the news saying that the government should come up with solutions rather than delay the election. One solution proposed was that the election officials could travel to places like retirement homes or hospitals to conduct the votes in person if the voters are unable to go to the polling booths themselves.

If the election goes ahead on October 2nd, constitutional lawyer Karl Weber, Director of the Institute of Public Law of the University of Vienna, said that individuals with faulty ballots cannot challenge the result themselves, but as was the case in the previous election, the candidates’ respective campaigns can.

Currently Norbert Hofer leads Alexander Van Der Bellen by several percentage points in the polls, a delay could change those numbers depending on what transpires between now and the projected date of mid-November.

Experts also point out the fact that Van der Bellen received far more postal votes than Hofer in May and the postal votes won Van der Bellen the vote, giving his campaign incentive to delay the vote until there are no longer issues with the postal ballots.

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