The Austrian presidential election is likely to be postponed from October 2 to November 27 or December 4, after it emerged that there have once again been serious problems preparing postal ballots.
According to reports, the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) has only agreed to a postponement if postal ballots are abolished completely—a demand that is unlikely to be met.
A report in the Kleine Zeitung newspaper said that the topic of postponing the election rerun—ordered after the country’s constitutional court struck down the results of the May elections after postal vote irregularities were exposed—has been the subject of intense all-day long meetings over the past weekend.
The decision to postpone the election was taken after it emerged that the glue used to close the postal ballots for the rerun was not sealing permanently, and that this would inevitably lead to the result being successfully challenged once again.
According to the Kleine Zeitung, agreement was reached between all six parties represented in the Austrian parliament late on Sunday evening, September 11, that the election will now be postponed, but that it will take place before the end of 2016.
There is also a push to update the voters’ register to include a number of young people who have become of voting age in the interim. The paper reported that the ruling Socialist Party (SPÖ)-Austrian Peoples’ Party (ÖVP) coalition, the Green Party, and the New Austria and Liberal Forum (“Neos”) all want to expand the register.
The FPÖ has indicated that it will only agree to the legal changes if postal ballots are abolished completely, arguing that mobile voting units can attend to those voters unable to get to the polling stations on voting day.
An official announcement on the postponement is expected to be made on Monday morning, September 12. Likely new election dates will be November 27 or December 4.
The FPÖ’s candidate, Norbert Hofer, officially launched his election campaign in Wels in northern Austria this weekend—despite the likely postponement—hitting out at the “stupidity” of allowing mass immigration by “economic migrants.”
Earlier, Hofer called for a suspension of the naturalization of Turks as Austrian citizens, until dual citizenship issues are resolved and said that his country could still leave the European Union if Turkey joins the bloc.
“It would be right to tell Turkey absolutely honestly that this country is so big and has such a different culture that the Union would not cope with its accession,” he told the Oesterreich newspaper.
Hofer also expressed his concern over the issue of potential “double loyalty” of some Austrian citizens of Turkish origin in view of the recent massive demonstrations in Europe in support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“From a legal point of view, [rallies] are allowed if they are approved by the authorities and no violent incidents occur. However, we must also reflect on what is happening: 5,000 Turks—and that is an effective strength of a brigade—took to our streets, well organized and with flags, just within hours,” Hofer said, adding repeatedly that such demonstrations were “organized,” meaning that the people were actually “mobilized” for the events.
Addressing the issue of Turkey potentially pulling out of the refugee deal with the EU, Hofer said that, if it happens, the EU will have to “fulfill the agreements at last and really provide security to its external borders.”
He also stressed that “asylum seekers” trying to reach Europe by sea should be rescued and then sent back, adding that asylum processing facilities and refugee centers should be also “moved out of Europe.”
Commenting on Austria’s possible exit from the European Union, Hofer said he would personally advocate such a move in two cases: if Turkey joins the EU, or if Brussels takes any more powers from the member states and gives them to the Union’s supranational bodies.