The main center-left opposition party in Austria reversed the result of his weekend leadership election, announcing that a computer error originally led to declaring the wrong candidate the winner.
Andreas Babler, the mayor of the town of Traiskirchen near Vienna, becomes the new leader of the Social Democrats as the party tries to turn its fortunes ahead of national elections scheduled for next year. At a party convention on Saturday, Hans Peter Doskozilthe governor of the southeastern province of Burgenland and a figure better known to the public, he had been narrowly declared the winner.
In a hastily called press conference on Monday, the head of the party’s electoral commission, Michaela Grubesa, announced that it was actually Babler and not Doskozil who won, obtaining 317 votes compared to 280 for Doskozil, as reported by the Austrian Press Agency.
Grubesa said a recount was held Monday because one vote was missing from the original total. In the process, party officials discovered that “the result was reversed” on Saturday due to an error that occurred when the votes were entered into a spreadsheet, she said.
Grubesa apologized to Doskozil and argued that the party does not need to call a new convention to ratify the result.
Babler said he would ask for the votes to be reviewed again.. “It is really important that there are no doubts in order to move forward with certainty,” he was quoted as saying by the Kurier newspaper.
The 50-year-old politician apologized for the impression his party had left in recent weeks and vowed to work on a “full return of social democracy.”
Babler is more leftist than Doskozil on issues like migration. Traiskirchen, where he serves as mayor, is home to the largest refugee reception center in Austria.
The Social Democrats have led many of Austria’s administrations after World War II, but have not been in government since 2017. In Austria’s last parliamentary election in 2019, they won 21.2% of the vote, well behind the conservative Austrian People’s Party, which currently rules in coalition with environmental Greens.
They currently sit in second place in the polls, behind the far-right Freedom Party, which has tapped into voter frustration with the growing inflation. The Freedom Party has used its trademark hardline rhetoric on immigration issues to win support in recent months.
The party’s leadership choice came after discontent grew with its previous leader, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, who was criticized for a perceived lack of vision and for failing to translate public dissatisfaction with the government into greater support.
Rival parties mocked the error in the Social Democrats’ spreadsheet. “Those who can’t run an election won’t win one either,” Douglas Hoyos, a member of the centrist NEOS party, wrote on Twitter.
(With information from AP)
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