Tired of US presidential election drama? How about something different: Austrian presidential election drama! Not so over the top that you would have thought it was too ridiculous to even make up a year ago, and with WAY fewer global consequences. Practically relaxing, by comparison.
Some background. The first round of this presidential election was back in April (!), then we had a run-off election between two candidates – one from the left-wing (Grüne), one from the right-wing (FPÖ) opposition party – in May. Fortunately, the candidate of the Green party won by 31.026 votes.
OR SO IT SEEMED. The FPÖ then challenged the election before the Constitutional Court, Austria's Supreme Court (more or less.) They claimed the election had been manipulated. The Court discovered that in several districts there had been instances of sloppiness when counting the votes, like opening the postal votes too early or not getting all necessary witness signatures. However, there was no proof and no indication of manipulation
You'd think the Court would maybe order the votes to be recounted, something like that, right? Nope. The Court ruled that the election had to be repeated in full
, because "there was a theoretical possibility of manipulation" – which the law doesn't even cover, the law clearly presumes an influence on the result! Mathematicians proved that the chance the votes affected by irregularities would have changed the result of the election was one in eight billion.
The judgement was plain wrong. (one of many articles
Nothing we can do. Repeat the election at the beginning of October. EXCEPT! There was a problem with the envelopes for the postal votes, which are very popular. Some of them opened on their own, making the votes invalid. The glue was faulty. The fucking glue.
ETA: The FPÖ briefly tried to use this to start a "get rid of postal votes" campaign, because they usually do very badly with postal votes, but fortunately that met with so much opposition that it died down quickly.
So the election had to be postponed again! This time, at the beginning of December. (In the meantime, btw, the office of president is being fulfilled by the three leaders of the National Council. The president in Austria, while in theory having not insignificant power, is traditionally not very involved in day-to-day politics.) A new law was necessary to even make that possible. The new law also stated that while in the repeat election in October only the people eligible to vote in April could participate, in the next repeat election everyone who is eligible by December can participate, changing the electorate.
Ahh, but it gets more ridiculous. The weekly newspaper "Falter", which published several articles criticizing the Constitutional Court judgment, recently interviewed one of the judges of the Constitutional Court. He didn't really say anything new, but one interesting detail was that he said he believes FPÖ leadership had prepared to challenge the election result even before the election. This unsurprisingly led to outrage among the FPÖ, who "didn't have a choice" and have now sued Judge Schnizer on multiple counts because of libel and related charges.
There's still a month and a half to go until the election! Let's see what else happens. If we're lucky it'll be the last one for this presidential election. There's a very real possibility that the FPÖ candidate will win in December, which would mean that a political party lost an election, appealed to have it overturned because of formalities so they could try again and hopefully win this time, and it worked
. That would be absolutely infuriating. It's bad enough now: I'm so angry at the Constitutional Court, like, what the fuck. Thinking that the highest Court in the land isn't competent doesn't feel good, btw. (Of course I knew judges are fallible, but still.)
Sometimes when I'm frustrated with Austrian politics and the election in particular I tell myself that at least we don't have it as bad as the US, where that orange asshole became the presidential candidate for one of the two major parties despite… basically everything he's said and done. (Fortunately the chances of him actually winning seem very low right now.) Dear Americans, best of luck with the election, with keeping up your health and nerves until then, and fingers crossed that after the first election there aren't any additional complications.