Austria’s Social Democrats celebrated Hans Peter Doskozil as their new leader at a party conference on Saturday after a ballot of delegates – only for faces to turn red two days later when it emerged that his opponent had actually won.
The party’s electoral commission head Michaela Grubesa said on Monday the results had been attributed to the wrong candidates and the winner was in fact Andreas Babler.
“Unfortunately, the paper ballots did not match the result that was announced digitally,” she told a news conference. “Due to a colleague’s technical error in the Excel list, the result was mixed up.”
The correct count was 280 votes for Doskozil and 317 votes for Babler, or about 47% to 53%. Grubesa said she had ordered a recount after one ballot was missing. It was later found and ruled invalid.
Doskozil, a former police chief and now governor of the province of Burgenland who shot to fame during the 2015-2016 migration crisis, conceded defeat at a news conference and congratulated Babler, who is from the party’s left wing.
“Nothing can justify…what happened here,” Babler said in a statement.
He said he had requested another recount and would become leader if the result was confirmed. He apologised to members for the mix-up, which he called a “low point” for the opposition party seeking to convince voters it is fit to run the country.
“If I take over this party I will work with my team towards the full comeback of Social Democracy,” he said.
The news stunned the country, with many expressing disbelief.
“Banana republic,” deputy editor-in-chief of the Kleine Zeitung newspaper, Michael Jungwirth, tweeted.
For satirical website Die Tagespresse, real life could not be beaten, prompting it to tweet in English: “Our job is done.”