Austrian presidential re-vote ordered

This is quite a big deal. One of the closest presidential elections anywhere, anytime will have to be re-run, due to irregularities. The Constitutional Court so ordered today.

How many other cases are there of re-votes of an entire national election in established democracies? I am unable to think of one.

(I should note that “entire” here means of the second round, thus with just the two candidates.)

20 thoughts on “Austrian presidential re-vote ordered

  1. Do political parties forcing fresh elections because the populous “wrongly” chose not to give any stable coalitions enough seats? (Or less cynically, revotes because no coalition can gain power with any hope of stability)

    The first thing that came to mind was Western Australia in 2013, but that is not national.

    ABC News (US) is reporting that they believe it the first time a national election has been voided.


    • No, for the sake of the question as I meant it, an early election quickly after a previous one (such as Greece and Spain have recently experienced) is not a “re-vote”. Unfortunately, some media called them such (and others said a “second round” of voting, which is just as misleading, if not worse).

      As far as I know, the first elections in these sequences (i.e. Greece and Spain, and similar cases elsewhere) were fully legitimate elections in which MPs were declared elected.* But, for lack of agreement on a government, constitutional procedures required a new election.

      A “re-vote”, as I mean it, is invalidating an election and having the entire electorate vote again. Interesting that ABC (US) says it is a first. I suspect that is correct.

      I did indeed think of the WA case as one of the few such examples, though as you note, it was just that one “district” (i.e. state, given this was a federal Senate election).

      * I suppose a second election of this sort for a presidency is logically impossible. (No doubt, someone will come up with a scenario, if not an actual case!)


      • I also thought of WA a couple years ago – for once, Australia and Austria have something in common other than their similar names (which have been the cause of much confusion for the geographically-challenged).

        Hungary also had a partially voided general election back in 1998, but not because of irregularities, but due to the fact that voter turnout in two counties – Hajdú-Bihar and Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg – fell below the 50% threshold, thus invalidating the election of regional
        list members of the National Assembly, carried out by PR. As a result, a re-vote took place in both counties, open to all lists taking part in the first round and carried out alongside the subsequent runoff vote for SMD seats (to which the same rule also applied). In the meantime no PR seats were allocated anywhere after the first round of voting, since the nationwide five percent threshold for list mandates could not be established without having at hand valid results from the two outstanding counties. At any rate, final regional list results were determined by aggregating results from the re-vote – which easily attained the 25% voter turnout threshold (in fact, both counties had substantially higher turnout rates) – to the regional list outcome in the rest of Hungary during the first round of voting. However, if memory serves me well the overall regional list outcome changed little on account of the re-vote.


  2. The Constitutional Court ruled that the election was not conducted using the proper legal procedures, and that the errors were material enough to affect the result, with the only remedy being to hold the election over again.

    So this is probably the first time something like this has happened.

    The errors seem to have been minor, but then again the margin was very small.

    Many American states provide for automatic re-counts in case of small margins, which I think is a good idea, but I don’t know if this is the case with Austria.


  3. If I understand the question correctly, and if I am reading Wikipedia correctly — potentially big “ifs” — the Ukrainian presidential election of 2004 is another example.


  4. I seem to recall one of the new post-Communist democracies, circa 1990, where the constitutional court semi-invalidated the first round of the presidential election but allowed the top two to proceed to a runoff. There were enough dubious ballots to cast doubt on whether the official highest candidate had in fact won 50%, but it was clear that he and the runner-up were so far ahead of all others that there was no need to re-run the primary ballot.
    This being pre-Internet I did not save a webpage that I can search my desk drive archives for…


  5. ‘… Enoch Powell was a very popular politician and there is a possibility that if we had had a presidential system of direct election, that he might have become leader of the country, though I think the probability is not, but there is a possibility he would have been….’
    – Vernon Bogdanor, “Enoch Powell and the Sovereignty of Parliament” (12 March 2013)


  6. I’d mutter that a preferential vote would have saved the Austrian people the cost of three rounds of voting bur that would be a scandalous hijack of the thread.


  7. Manuel (02/07/2016 at 8:13 am), that is a fascinating story about the Hungarian re-votes, which somehow previously had escaped my attention.

    Bob (01/07/2016 at 1:21 pm), the Ukrainian presidential runoff of 2004 required a re-vote after mass protests over the irregularities in the original runoff vote (the Orange Revolution), and a Constitutional Court verdict. There are other cases in new/emerging democracies, including some state elections in Mexico.

    But my question concerned “established democracies”; perhaps Hungary in 1998 already passed that test by some reasonable standard, but surely Ukraine in 2004 did not (and still does not).


    • About Ukraine, fair enough. I was lending a lot of credence to the year — forgetting that during the period 1989 to 2004 Ukraine was hardly stable. And to the fact that the Constitutional Court ordered the revote rather than (or in addition to) election officials caving in to mass protests.


      • My fault because I did not define “established” democracy. There are various criteria one could use, but I guess I was using the Potter principle (I know it when I see it).*

        Even if Ukraine were deemed “stable” from 1998 (debatable, but not ridiculous), it would be hard to call its democracy “established” as of 2004. I don’t think there’s any question about Austria’s democracy having established itself shortly after WWII, making it one of Europe’s current oldest democracies. All this just makes the nullification of an election in Austria all the more remarkable.

        (* The former US Justice, not Harry.)


  8. Taking aside the “established democracy” clause, we have also the serbian presidential elections of 1997 and 2002 – nobody had 50% of the votes and the election was null.


    • Null because of a threshold not being met would seem to belong to a different category from null due to irregularities in voting or counting.

      Does the Serbian rule give voters a third option beyond the top two candidates–like vote “blank” or “none of the above”? Or are you referring to a turnout requirement?

      I am somewhat surprised that I do not even recall the events you are referring to, Miguel. Then again, my own inability to keep up with everything in the world electoral, and the valuable contributions of my readers, are why I have this blog!


  9. Pingback: Austria’s presidential re-run | Fruits and Votes

  10. One I added to the Wikipedia page “List of annulled elections” : the Iceland Constitutional Assembly elections : 25 nonpartisan members elected by nationwide STV, see

    According to Wikipedia, the court ruled the voting methods didn’t protect enough the secrecy of the vote (nothing to do with the STV system). Parliament took over and appointed on its own authority those who were elected, the draft constitution drafted by those 25 was approved by referendum but has not been ratified by parliament.


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