The new leader of the Austrian Social Democrats has lasted just 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 badly transferred to an Excel sheet of results that made the new leader of the ranks to the wrong candidate. The mistake in the SPÖ congress, which was supposed to open a new stage to close the internal division, has embarrassed locals and strangers. The delegates celebrated Hans Peter Doskozil as the new leader, but Andreas Babler had actually won the vote.
Already on Saturday, as published by Austrian media such as Der Standard, there were doubts about a vote when the result was announced, since party officials claimed that 596 valid ballots had been cast, but the sum of the support for Doskozil (316) and Babler (279) gave 595. On Monday, the votes were counted again and the president of the party's electoral commission, Michaela Grubesa, urgently called a press conference to admit, to 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, a former defense minister and current governor of the federal state of Burgenland, representing the party's rightmost wing, conceded defeat shortly afterwards and called the corrected result "indisputable." In recent years, he had been one of the most critical leaders of the leadership of the previous leader of the SPÖ, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, who took the reins in 2018 and was questioned on several occasions by the electoral setback of the party.
With the idea of clearing doubts about the leadership, the party decided in March to convene a consultation with the membership. Doskozil won the race ahead of Babler, and Rendi-Wagner, who came third by a very narrow margin, and opted to resign and leave politics. The delegates of this past weekend's congress had to choose between the other two candidates to lead the party.
Babler, who became 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, called for another recount to ensure that there is not the slightest doubt about the result. He also apologized to members for the confusion, which he called 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 winning back voters ahead of 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 said.
The confusion in the results unleashed a wave of disbelief and also mockery in the media and on social networks. "Banana republic," said Kleine Zeitung deputy editor-in-chief Michael Jungwirth. For the satirical website Die Tagespresse, reality has overtaken them, so I tweet in English: "Our work is done." "Any bowling club is better organized than the SPÖ," a journalist commented on an ORF public television program.
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