Remember last month when I wrote of the anomalies in the recent election for president in Austria, and how a new second-round election would take place on 2 October between Alexander Van der Bellen and Norbert Hofer? Link here Below is an excerpt from that post, in case you have forgotten:
Austria has a system whereby if no candidate wins a clear majority in the first round, a second round is held between the two candidates with the most votes. In April, the election for president was held, and while Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party won the largest number of votes, he only won 35.1%, so a second-round was held in May between Hofer and Alexander Van der Bellen of the Greens Party, who had won 21.3% in the first round. Van der Bellen won the second round, albeit by a narrow margin, and only after the postal votes were included. Hofer, who is loosely the Austrian equivalent of our own Trump (albeit more polished and intelligent), claimed there were election “irregularities”, and it was later confirmed that the absentee ballots in some 14 out of 20 districts had, in fact, been improperly counted. The end result is that the second round of the election was annulled and a new second round will take place on October 2nd.
Well, this week the re-scheduled election was re-re-scheduled … pushed back from 2 October to 4 December. You might wonder why. Was it the health of one of more candidates? Was it a lawsuit that must be resolved before moving on? Was it some other crisis, such as, say, a lightning strike that disabled all the voting machines? You’d be getting closer with that last one … but no, in fact, it was faulty glue on the envelopes of the absentee ballots that were sent out
So much fun to be had with this one, yet I must remember that my own country is the laughingstock of the world at the moment, thanks to one Donnie Trump and his antics. But still … I cannot resist a bit of good-natured ribbing, and neither, apparently, could some others:
- Van der Bellen suggested that the faulty glue was a metaphor for bigger problems in Austria, saying “what we need most of all is for us to stick together”
- “Due to the high unemployment rate in Austria or the growing divide between rich and poor, we need cohesion in difficult times,” Van der Bellen said.
- A Wall Street Journal Headline reads: Think the U.S. Presidential Race Is Coming Unglued? Here’s One That Really Is
- Newspapers have dubbed it Gluegate, the Glue Glitch and the Glue Crisis
Others were not so much into humour, however. Hofer did not try to suppress his anger over the postponement, saying it was a reflection of the general mess that Austria was in. “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. We simply want our Austria back.” (Why does this sound familiar?) Interestingly, Hofer had previously called to abolish the postal votes, which are expected to favour his rival, Van der Bellen, by a substantial margin. FPÖ (Hofer’s party) chairman, Heinz-Christian Strache, said he suspected an act of conspiracy against his party by political opponents, calling the decision to move the date “a tactical move because Norbert Hofer is currently ahead in the polls” (Again, why does this sound familiar?)
Not wanting to take the accusation of a conspiracy theory lightly, a three-point investigation has been launched into the printing company, the makers of the adhesive, and the application of the adhesive to the envelope.
In one sense, it is comforting to know that the U.S. is not alone, that crazy things happen, elections turn into circuses, and candidates see bogeymen lurking behind every nook and cranny in other countries too. But then, it is more disturbing than comforting to envision the world in ten years, with Hofers, Trumps, Le Pens and other right-wing populists at the helm of powerful nations around the globe. And while I may chuckle about the glue on the ballot envelopes, I am altogether aware that we may be dealing with similar (or worse) situations in a few short weeks. Our very own trumpeter has already set the stage for claiming ‘voter fraud’ when he loses. I wonder what sort of excuses he will find to demand a new election? As I may have said once or twice before … the world has turned upside down on its axis. In the words of one twitterer “I am tired of living in interesting times”. Me too.