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Austria court overturns presidential election, orders rerun

Austria’s highest court on Friday overturned the results of the country’s presidential election and ordered a rerun, following claims of counting irregularities by the right-wing candidate who narrowly lost.

The decision — unprecedented in Austria’s post-war history — was announced by constitutional court chief judge Gerhart Holzinger. It represents a victory for the Freedom Party, which challenged the May 22 run-off, but also has wider implications that encompass other European countries.

With Britain’s pending departure from the European Union, a win by euroskeptic Freedom Party 
candidate Norbert Hofer would boost not only his party but kindred movements in France, the Netherlands and elsewhere lobbying for less EU power or outright exits from the European Union.
Hofer was leading after polls closed in May, but final results after a count of absentee ballots put former Green party politician Alexander Van der Bellen ahead by only a little more than 30,000 votes. 

The final count gave Van der Bellen 50.3 per cent, compared with 49.7 per cent for Hofer. The Freedom Party asserted that the law had been contravened in one way or another in most of the 117 electoral districts, including the sorting of absentee ballots before electoral commission officials arrived and related violations of the rules.

Holzinger said the court had no choice but to call for a rerun, noting that the  irregularities potentially affected nearly 78,000 votes — more than twice the margin separating the two candidates.

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