Austrians must wait a little longer to elect president

The rerun of Austria's presidential election has been postponed to 4 December after the adhesive seals on envelopes containing postal votes were found to be faulty. For some commentators this is yet another fiasco in a series of blunders that have plagued the country's presidential election. Others warn the Austrians not to let this latest scandal unnerve them.

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Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

A Kafkaesque drama

The series of fiascos in Austria goes beyond the Kafkaesque, Il Sole 24 Ore jeers:

“The political reality in post-Brexit Europe surpasses even the wildest fantasies. Emperor Franz Joseph will be turning in his grave, while many observers suspect that the two parties currently in power in Vienna wanted the elections to be postponed. … The presidential election is turning into a never-ending, not to say Kafkaesque, story: the constitutional court in Vienna had upheld the FPÖ's objection agreeing that there had been irregularities in the postal vote. Not election fraud, but the votes should have been opened on Monday and not - as was the case in many constituencies - on the Sunday evening. … It looks like Vienna will have to forego its traditional New Year's presidential address. The next president won't be sworn in until January - provided all goes well in a country that is split in two.”

Kurier (AT) /

Austria not a banana republic

Austria must now keep a cool head and not overestimate the importance of what has happened, Kurier stresses:

“It's unpleasant, it prolongs an election campaign that is already too long, and it further distracts politicians from dealing with important issues. But that doesn't make us a banana republic. Now that the shortcomings have been revealed, conspiracy theories according to which one person or another has an interest in postponing the election should be seen as nonsense. The same goes for the idea of abolishing the postal vote altogether. In the Internet age we'll soon be able to vote online. People are mobile, many are travelling or even live abroad. Should they have no voting rights just because of the odd glitch in the system? Campaigning should now pause for a few weeks. Both candidates - and the voters too - should be given a break. Then they can resume the fight in early November.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

FPÖ has poisoned the atmosphere in Austria

The election was postponed but the FPÖ has already won, the Tages-Anzeiger observes:

“The right-wing populists don't need to be in power to intensify the climate of anger and weariness with politics. They have 'air sovereignty in the pubs' (as a social democrat once put it); they are shaping the public discourse. They decide what 'homeland' means, who belongs to the people (light-skinned people wearing lederhosen or dirndls [traditional Austrian costumes]) and who belongs to the 'schickeria' (artists and left-wing intellectuals). They dictate who is foe and who is friend; when the elections are fair (when the FPÖ wins) and when they must be repeated (when it loses). … The FPÖ has built up its own communication channels through which it can spread conspiracy theories unhindered (and often unobserved). The government and the left-wing opposition, by contrast, don't have their own story to tell. Their only response is to be against the FPÖ. The SPÖ and ÖVP are bound together only by their common fear of losing power. This is a grand coalition of fear.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

Green candidate growing into his role

The Green candidate Alexander van der Bellen could end up benefiting most from the postponement of the elections, the daily paper taz comments:

“The FPÖ, as to be expected, is hammering on about 'the system' having caused the ballot paper scandal. Anything that can be used to justify anger against the government helps the anti-system candidate. But the polarization and the increasingly radical anti-system rhetoric in which the FPÖ is immersing itself may also end up helping the Green candidate. He is growing more and more into the presidential role, presenting himself as a statesman and a balancing force - while his rival is in danger of running with a wholly far-right programme and thus losing support from the centre. Anti-system anger versus temperate common sense: we'll see which of these two dynamics wins the day.”