Andreas Babler: A ballot error leads the Austrian Social Democrats to change their leader two days after their election | International
The new leader of the Austrian Social Democrats has barely lasted two days in office, which has taken the party (SPÖ) to realize that the votes of the congress held last Saturday in the city of Linz had been poorly transferred to a sheet Excel of results that made the wrong candidate the new head of ranks. The error in the SPÖ congress, which was to open a new stage to close the internal division, has embarrassed locals and strangers. Delegates celebrated Hans Peter Doskozil as the new leader, but Andreas Babler had actually won the vote.
Already on Saturday itself, as Austrian media such as Right Standard, there were doubts about a vote when the result was announced, since those responsible for the party affirmed that 596 valid ballots had been issued, but the sum of the support for Doskozil (316) and Babler (279) gave 595. This Monday, the votes were counted again and the president of the party's electoral commission, Michaela Grubesa, urgently called a press conference to admit, in the face of general disbelief: “Unfortunately, the ballots did not match the result announced digitally. Due to a technical error in the Excel list, the result was reversed." It was not clear how this "technical error" could have occurred. The correct count gave 280 votes to Doskozil and 317 to Babler, that is, practically the opposite of what was proclaimed on Saturday.
Doskozil, former defense minister and current governor of the Burgenland province, a representative of the party's far right wing, conceded defeat shortly afterward, calling the corrected result "indisputable." In recent years, he had been one of the leaders most critical of the leadership of the former SPÖ leader, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, who took over the reins in 2018 and was questioned on several occasions by the party's electoral setback.
With the idea of dispelling doubts about the leadership, the party decided in March to call a consultation with the militancy. Doskozil won the race ahead of Babler, and Rendi-Wagner, who narrowly placed third, decided to resign and leave politics. The congress delegates this past weekend had to choose between the other two candidates.
Babler, made a surprise new leader amid the scandal, said in a statement: "Nothing can justify what has happened here." The leader, current mayor of the town of Traiskirchen and exponent of the most leftist faction of the party, asked for another recount to guarantee that there is not the slightest doubt about the result. He also apologized to the affiliates for the confusion, which he described as a "low point" for the opposition party to the Christian Democrats and Greens government. The new stage, in which the SPÖ faces the challenge of recovering voters for the general elections scheduled for 2024, could not have started worse for the new leader. "If I take over this party, I will work with my team for the full recovery of social democracy," he declared.
The confusion in the results unleashed a wave of disbelief and also mockery in the media and on social networks. “Banana Republic”, said the deputy chief editor of the newspaper Kleine Zeitung, Michael Jungwirth. For the satirical website Die Tagespresse, reality has overtaken them, so I tweet in English: "Our job is done." “Any bowling club is better organized than the SPÖ,” a journalist commented on a program on ORF public television.
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