Better odds for FPÖ candidate Hofer?
Austria's presidential election is to be repeated owing to irregularities in the counting of votes in the runoff. With this decision the Constitutional Court in Vienna upheld a complaint brought by the far-right FPÖ party. Commentators believe the decision to repeat the vote is right but some fear that this time FPÖ candidate Norbert Hofer will win.
No fodder for conspiracy theorists
The rerun of the runoff vote is the best of a bunch of bad solutions, Lidové noviny concludes:
“The decision by the Austrian constitutional court to declare the second round of the recent presidential election invalid and repeat the whole process is somewhat unexpected. It establishes violations of the electoral laws but not fraud. But it is better to repeat the election than to live in a state of constant uncertainty that would be used by some to spread conspiracy theories about the elections being manipulated. … Two questions are raised: will voter turnout be higher or lower after this scandal? And will Van der Bellen or Hofer be the winner?”
Austria shocks Europe again
The daily paper Chasa 24 sees many cons but also some pros to the Constitutional Court's decision:
“The good news is that democracy works in Austria. The election was not completely above board so now it will be repeated. The constitutional judges could just as well have turned a blind eye. … The bad news is that this is the next shock after the Brexit and many Europeans are starting to doubt their time-honoured democracies. If this had happened in an Eastern European EU member state no one would have batted an eye. What is going on with the Western Europeans? Are they copying our habit of ignoring the red lights? And there's another piece of bad news, the worst: this time round the Austrians could actually let the nationalist Norbert Hofer win the elections. Let us hope they'll be sensible otherwise they could end up like the British.”
Freedom Party bolstered by Brexit
Dnevnik newspaper also believes the Brexit has changed the conditions for the runoff vote in Austria:
“Bolstered by the Brexit, Freedom Party supporters will no doubt busily propagate their anti-European, nationalist and xenophobic views. … They will also try to insert an 'Austrexit after the Brexit' into the political debate. … The more mistakes the EU makes in dealing with the crisis after the Brexit and the more the Austrian coalition under the new chancellor continues as before, the better not only Norbert Hofer's chances of becoming president, but also [FPÖ leader] Heinz-Christian Strache's chances of becoming chancellor will get.”
Repeat vote could be Phyrric victory for FPÖ
The repeat of the election could end up backfiring on the FPÖ, writes Austrian author Robert Misik in a guest commentary for Spiegel Online:
“In Austria they repeat elections even when it has been proven that they weren't manipulated. All it takes is for the voluntary helpers in a few remote communities to have made a mess of things. And precisely for this reason the decision to invalidate the results is correct and just. Because the FPÖ saw contesting the vote above all as an opportunity to damage the democratic institutions and undermine popular trust in them. The Constitutional Court's decision is a slap in the face for those efforts because it highlights how high the judges' standards in fact are. … At the same time, however, it is clear that the FPÖ, as a bad loser, opted to use legal loopholes to deviously gain a second chance. But that could backfire and turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory.”