Overturning an Election in Austria

The country’s constitutional court annulled the results of the recent presidential election.

Norbert Hofer, left, and Alexander Van der Bellen (Ronald Zak / AP)

Updated on July 1 at 8:15 a.m. ET

Austria’s Constitutional Court, the country’s highest judicial authority, has annulled May’s presidential election that was narrowly won by a Green Party-backed candidate.

Alexander Van der Bellen, the Green Party-backed candidate had defeated Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party by 31,026 votes. Two weeks later,  Heinz-Christian Strache, the head of the Freedom Party, said his side would appeal the results, alleging “massive number of irregularities and mistakes.”

Under Friday’s court order, there will be new presidential elections, most likely in the fall. Until then, a panel of three politicians from different parties are constitutionally empowered to carry out the job; one of those politicians is Hofer.

Hofer had comfortably led in the voting in the May election, but absentee ballots—which accounted for about 12 percent of the total votes cast—tipped the result in his rival’s favor. The Freedom Party, in its appeal, alleged that the postal ballots in 94 out of 117 districts were opened before rules permitted their unsealing, and were counted by people who weren’t authorized to do so. The court found Friday that though rules had been broken in a way that could have influenced the results, there was no proof the vote count was manipulated.

Hofer’s victory would have given the presidency to a far-right party in a EU country for the first time since the end of World War II.