Austrian politics comes unstuck as glue scandal delays rerun presidential election

When a female voter noticed her postal vote has unsealed itself, the electoral commission was forced to reorganise the entire vote

Austria, Presidential election

Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka revealing the faulty postal ballot papers at a press conference [Ronald Zak / AP/Press Association Images]

After already weathering a political scandal over postal votes that saw the country’s electoral commission rerun Austria’s presidential election, the second vote has now been cancelled after the adhesive seal on this round’s postal votes was found to be defective.

The rerun was brought about after the right-wing Freedom party (FPÖ) narrowly lost out on its candidate Norbert Hofer taking the ceremonial role in May’s final-round election. The party proceeded to lodged official complaints about count anomalies of postal votes, with the country’s electoral commission settling on a date of October 2nd. That has now been postponed to December 4th.

The glue’s faultiness was first reported by an Austrian voter named Beate Rhomberg, who noticed that the postal vote she had sealed in the morning had come unstuck over the course of the day. Reporting the story to her local newspaper, it was picked up by the national media and the ensuing negative press forcing the electoral commission into hastily reorganising election.

Rather than welcoming the news, many Austrians have sent Rhomberg comments on social media complaining that she should never have mentioned it. “Why did she not simply stick [the ballot] shut again with a [Pritt Stick]?” one commenter asked, adding “Then we wouldn’t have had all this fuss.”

The glue scandal and subsequent delay have been regarded as hugely politically embarrassing for Austria and the cabinet chaired by its chancellor, Christian Kern. Austria has now officially been without a head of state since July 8th when Social Democrat Heinz Fischer left office after exactly 12 years as president.

In May’s presidential election, Austria’s political elites were left reeling when former Green Party leader Alexander van der Bellen, running as an independent, clinched victory by only 31,000 votes over his rightwing rival, in what was one of the closely run elections in Austrian history.

Yesterday, reacting to the developing glue scandal, van der Bellen said that the faulty adhesive worked a metaphor for the bigger political problems gripping Austria today, adding “what we need most of all is for us to stick together.”

Norbert Hofer, already in the thick of his presidential campaigning, took the opportunity to again criticise the Austrian political climate in light of the scandal. “We now have a new date because the organisation has failed once again, because this republic is not capable of carrying out elections in an orderly way,” he said. “We simply want our Austria back.”

Austria’s police service has now launched an official investigation into the faulty glue and the electoral envelopes, which have reportedly been made by the same company for decades. The prevailing theory is that the glue became too warm during transportation, drying out in the height and losing its adhesion.

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