Alexander Van der Bellen and Norbert Hofer. (screenshots via France24)

The United States is not alone in dealing with allegations of a “rigged” democratic system. It is also not alone, as the chaos of Brexit has taught us, in dealing with a growing anti-immigrant sentiment represented by presidential candidates.

In Austria, the position of president is “largely ceremonial,” perhaps something many Americans are starting to wish was true here. The Austrian presidential race recently ended in a narrow victory for Alexander Van der Bellen, a former leader of the Greens Party, over Norbert Hofer. Hofer, a member of the anti-immigrant Freedom Party (FPO), lost by a margin of less than 1 percentage point. “This prompted a loud outcry of allegations that the vote had been rigged,” says “As it turns out the allegations were spot on.”

Mail-in ballots were a large part of the problem, as were irregularities that occurred due to the need to process the results quickly. The FPO therefore challenged the May 22 results, and Austria’s Constitutional Court ordered a rerun. The Wall Street Journal reports that the court “ruled that 77,926 of the 4.5 million votes cast were affected by improprieties in how mail-in ballots were processed.”

The do-over race will be held in the increasingly anxious political climate caused by last week’s Brexit vote. Reuters reports:

Austria was swept up in Europe’s migration crisis last autumn when it and Germany opened their borders to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere, only to reverse course as public opinion turned.

Hofer’s near-victory was widely seen as part of a rising tide of populism that has since reached Britain. The Brexit vote could buoy support for Hofer—or the economic fallout, including a sharp drop in sterling, could undermine him.

According to Reuters, the rerun will most likely take place this fall—just as the United States, which has seen growing xenophobic and nationalist sentiments, holds its November presidential election.

—Posted by Emma Niles

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