Austria delays presidential election re-run after postal ballot snag

Presidential election campaign posters of candidates Norbert Hofer (left) and Alexander Van der Bellen are seen in Vienna, Austria.
Presidential election campaign posters of candidates Norbert Hofer (left) and Alexander Van der Bellen are seen in Vienna, Austria.PHOTO: REUTERS

VIENNA (Reuters) - A re-run of Austria's presidential election scheduled for next month has been delayed, Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said on Monday (Sept 12), after some postal voters complained of faulty seals on ballot papers.

The election, which had been due to take place on Oct 2, was called after problems with counting postal ballots also affected the original vote in May.

The re-run might now take place on either Nov 27 or Dec 4, Mr Sobotka told a news conference in Vienna, adding he was open to extending the vote to citizens who had reached the voting age of 16 since the spring.

In the original ballot, Austria came within 31,000 votes of becoming the first western European country to elect a far-right head of state since World War Two.

Mr Norbert Hofer of the anti-migrant Freedom Party (FPO) lost that vote by less than one percentage point to independent Alexander Van der Bellen, a former leader of the Green Party.

The Constitutional Court ordered a re-run after a challenge by the FPO, with judges citing irregularities in the way some postal ballots were processed.

Mr Hofer has led in recent opinion polls. A far-right victory would resonate throughout the European Union, where migration driven by war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa has become a major political issue.

Mr Sobotka said on Friday he was considering postponing the re-run after some postal voters said the glue on their forms was not working properly, making the seals insecure.

Postponing the re-run will require a change to Austria's electoral law.