Citing serious irregularities in the counting of postal votes, Austria’s constitutional court issued an unprecedented rule mandating a rerun of the presidential election in which Green party candidate Alexander Van der Bellen narrowly beat Freedom Party and anti-immigration candidate Norbert Hofer.

The Wall Street Journal reports Austrian Court Orders Rerun of Presidential Vote.

Austria’s Constitutional Court ordered a rerun of the final round of the country’s presidential election, giving Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer a second chance of becoming the first right-wing populist head of state in postwar Western Europe.

“The runoff presidential election must be completely repeated in all of Austria,” Gerhart Holzinger, the president of the Constitutional Court, said Friday in Vienna.

The court, acting on the Freedom Party’s challenge of the May 22 election result, ruled that 77,926 of the 4.5 million votes cast were affected by improprieties in how mail-in ballots were processed.

While the court established no instances of fraud, the judges said the improprieties alone were reason enough to annul the vote in light of the tight margin of victory. Independent, pro-refugee candidate Alexander Van der Bellen beat out Mr. Hofer 50.3% to 49.7%, a margin of 30,863 votes.

The ruling, unprecedented for Austria, thrust the Alpine country, and Europe, into deeper political uncertainty a week after the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union.

Mr. Hofer’s near-victory in May was one of this year’s most striking signals of European discontent with the pro-EU establishment. Now Mr. Hofer will have another chance of beating Mr. Van der Bellen and becoming the first Western European populist politician to ride the recent wave of voter anger over immigration and European integration to his country’s highest office.

Beyond ceremonial duties, Austria’s president has the power to dismiss the government—led by the chancellor—and call fresh parliamentary elections. Mr. Hofer ran an anti-immigration, anti-free-trade campaign and said he would consider calling early elections as president.

Hofer

“Crazy to Make a Prognosis”

The Financial Times provided this commentary by political commentator Thomas Hofer.

The repeat election, expected in September, will provide an early test of electoral support for European nationalist parties following the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

“The Freedom party has to be very careful playing with the Brexit vote,” said Thomas Hofer, a political analyst in Vienna. “It is probably one of their vulnerable points because the Austrians do not want to risk what the British did.”

The outcome of the re-run presidential election is unclear and could depend heavily on the turnout, Mr Hofer warned. “It would be crazy to make a prognosis. It is an open race.”

Another Austrian political commentator added: “Being anti-EU is not such a winning thing right now.”

Test of Anti-EU Sentiment Coming Up

A test of anti-EU, anti-immigration sentiment is coming up in Austria.

Any predictions or is it “too crazy” to predict?

Mike “Mish” Shedlock