Austria far-right challenges election result

It was unclear what the next legal steps would be but Alexander Van der Bellen, the winner of the election, is due to be sworn in on July 8.

Vienna: Austria`s anti-immigration Freedom Party filed Wednesday a legal challenge two weeks after its candidate lost out by the narrowest of margins on being elected the EU`s first far-right president, alleging "terrifying" irregularities.

"We are not sore losers. This is about protecting the very foundations of democracy," FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache said in Vienna as he announced the challenge.

"The extent of irregularities is more than terrifying. That`s why I feel obliged to challenge the result," he told a news conference.

"You don`t have to be a conspiracy theorist to have a bad gut feeling about this whole election... Without these irregularities (FPOe candidate Norbert) Hofer could have become president."

The filing of the challenge was confirmed on by Christian Neuwirth, a spokesman for Austria`s constitutional court.

It was unclear what the next legal steps would be but Alexander Van der Bellen, the winner of the election, is due to be sworn in on July 8.

Van der Bellen, an independent backed by the ecologist Green Party, defeated Hofer by just 30,863 votes in the second round of the election on May 22.

Preliminary results released that day had put Hofer, presented as the friendly face of the anti-immigration FPOe, very slightly ahead.

But after postal votes were counted, Van der Bellen was declared the winner of the largely ceremonial but coveted presidency the next day.

Austrian authorities have said they were investigating several cases of alleged election irregularities.

For the most part, however, the allegations concerned postal votes being opened for counting too early, and were not thought capable of changing the overall result.

The claims of irregularities caused an outcry on Strache`s Facebook page, obliging him to call on supporters to tone down their comments after some called for violence and Van der Bellen`s address was published.

According to press reports, this has prompted police to beef up security around the new president-elect.Mirroring the rise of other populists in Europe and beyond, Hofer tapped into unease about immigration and Austria`s faltering economy to win support not just among poorer, less educated voters but across the board.

Hofer, 45, was portrayed as moderate but he nevertheless believes Islam is not part of Austria, opposes gay marriage and says that if the country were not a member of the EU, he would vote against joining.

The FPOe is also looking ahead to the next general elections, due in 2018.

It is leading opinion polls with more than 30 percent while the two centrist parties -- the Social Democrats (SPOe) and People`s Party (OeVP) -- in the governing coalition look set to fall short of a majority.

Support for these two parties has been sliding for years and at the last general election in 2013 they only just managed to scratch together a majority.

The first round of the presidential election was so disastrous for the two parties` candidates -- winning just 11 percent each -- that chancellor Werner Faymann of the SPOe quit on May 9.

He has been succeeded by Christian Kern, former head of the national railways firm.

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