Spreadsheet Error Reverses Austrian Party Leadership Election Result

Wim De Gent
By Wim De Gent
June 8, 2023Europeshare
Spreadsheet Error Reverses Austrian Party Leadership Election Result
Austrian Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil reacts during a joint military exercise in Allensteig, Austria, on Sept. 15, 2017. (Ronald Zak/AP Photo)

Austria’s main center-left opposition party announced a reversal of its leadership election result due to a technical error that lead to the wrong candidate being declared the winner last weekend.

Andreas Babler, the mayor of the town of Traiskirchen outside Vienna, now becomes the Social Democrats’s (SPÖ) new leader as the party prepares for a comeback in the national election next year.

Hans Peter Doskozil—the governor of southeastern Burgenland province and a figure better known to the public—had narrowly been declared winner during the party’s convention on June 3.

At a hastily called news conference on June 5, Michaela Grubesa, head of the party’s electoral commission, then announced that in fact, Babler had won, raking in 317 votes (52.66 percent of the delegates’ votes) compared to Doskozil’s 280.

Grubesa said that an error had occurred when the votes were put into a spreadsheet. When the party’s electoral commission noticed that one vote was missing, a recount began. It was at this time, that “the result was reversed,” according to Grubesa.

In an update on the party’s website, Babler emphasized that he has asked his party’s electoral commission to double-check the results once more.

“It is important that no question marks remain so that we can move forward with certainty,” he said. “I expect absolute transparency and clarity. We owe it to the party, the members, and the voters.”

The 50-year-old apologized for the lackluster impression his party had left in recent weeks and pledged to work on a “complete comeback of social democracy.”

SPÖ’s leadership election came after persisting discontent over its previous leader, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, who was accused of lacking vision and incapacity to garnish voters.

The new party head sits to the left of Doskozil on several issues, including migration policy. Traiskirchen, where Babler serves as mayor, is home to the biggest refugee reception center in Austria.

The Social Democrats have led many of Austria’s post-World War II administrations but last served in government in 2017. In Austria’s last parliamentary election in 2019, SPÖ won 21 percent of the vote—far behind the conservative Austrian People’s Party, which currently governs in a coalition with the green party.

For the upcoming elections, SPÖ is polling in second place behind the right-wing Freedom Party, which has gained increasing support over its immigration-restricting agenda and conservative economic policies amid voters frustration with rising inflation.

Babler added that he was ready for his new position: “I give you my word: If I take over the party, I will work together with my team on the comeback of social democracy.”

The Social Democrats’ spreadsheet hiccup was cause for some schadenfreude with rival parties.

“With this, SPÖ has disqualified itself,” Douglas Hoyos, a member of the centrist NEOS party, wrote on Twitter after congratulating Doskozil on Saturday.

“Those who can’t organize an election won’t win any either.”

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