In Austria, elections are indeed rigged, due to incompetence.
The Social Democrats (SPÖ) said they declared the wrong candidate as the winner of a nail-biting party election over the weekend.
In place of Hans Peter Doskozil, the populist governor of eastern Burgenland, the mayor of a small left-leaning town Andreas Babler will take over the leadership of the oldest party in the country.
About 600 SPÖ delegates voted at an extraordinary party meeting on Saturday. Doskozil celebrated what appeared to be a clear victory with 53% of the vote. In fact, Babler won by 53% to Doskozil’s 47%, according to the revised tally.
Exactly what led to the bizarre turn of events remained unclear until late Monday. SPD election director Michaela Grubesa gave a confused explanation at a press conference, blaming a « technical error by a colleague with an Excel table » when tabulating the results.
The error was discovered during a recount on Monday, undertaken because a vote had not been accounted for in Saturday’s original recount.
« It’s important for me to point out that there were no mistakes in the election itself or in the work of the election committee, » Grubesa said, adding that she regretted not asking for a recount over the weekend to make sure there were no mistakes. errors .
Doskozil said he would accept the new result, even though it was a « difficult day ».
« This is the result of the party congress, » he said.
What’s less clear, however, is whether the election fiasco will plunge the party, long a pillar of Austrian democracy, into deeper turmoil. The party is currently second in the polls behind the far-right Freedom Party and SPÖ supporters had hoped the leadership vote would give the party fresh impetus.
A years-long battle between Doskozil and former party leader, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, over the direction of the party and who should run it, heralded elections this weekend. Rendi-Wagner placed third in a membership ballot last month and dropped out of the race, leading to the double-weekend at the party convention.
Most Austrians hadn’t even heard of Babler, a former train driver, until a few weeks ago. However, his campaign as an outspoken man of the people seems to have resonated with the party’s grassroots.
That said, he seemed to stumble in the final stretch after a 2020 podcast interview emerged in which he called the EU « the most aggressive foreign policy military alliance that has ever existed », adding that the bloc was « worse than NATO ».
He also created confusion by declaring himself a Marxist in a television interview and then insisting that he was not a Marxist.
« I don’t understand the uproar, » Babler said. « All I’m doing is talking about Marxism. »