Austria's Freedom Party likely to challenge presidential election result: OE1

Former presidential candidate Norbert Hofer of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe) and party head Heinz-Christian Strache (R) address a news conference in Vienna, Austria, May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

ZURICH (Reuters) - Austria’s anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPO) is very likely to formally challenge the result of last month’s presidential election and is calling for postal ballots to be abolished, its leader said on Saturday.

Asked how likely it is the FPO will formally challenge the result of the vote, which its candidate Norbert Hofer narrowly lost, Heinz-Christian Strache said in an interview with radio station OE1: “It is very likely ... over 50 percent.”

He said the party would make its decision by Wednesday, the deadline for challenges.

“If the irregularities are confirmed by legal experts ... then we have a responsibility to democracy,” Strache said.

The FPO has said it is examining several irregularities that have come to light in individual polling stations, ranging from postal ballots having been counted too early to the number of votes having been overstated.

“Postal ballots in their current form have to be abolished,” Strache said in the interview, adding that voting by mail did not meet constitutional requirements for a secret ballot.

Former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen won the presidential election on May 22 with a narrow lead of roughly 31,000 votes.

Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Greg Mahlich