Vivere militare est

– Seneca

Dear friends of the rule of law,

These are very dramatic times. In my fatherland, Austria, presidential elections took place and it seems that the result was manipulated and “doctored” in favour of the left wing “green” candidate. The “blue” candidate of the right wing, ordo-liberal, anti-immigration Freedom Party lost very, very narrowly.

Whatever you may think about the right or left or about any particular candidate, there must always be fair play! We must all stick to the rules and the rule of law within the framework of a constitutional democracy.

In order to uphold the spirit of a constitution and of law and order and the trust of all citizens in the institutions all proceedings and elections must be, like Caesar’s wife, beyond doubt.

I have experienced a lot of elections in my fatherland, some of which ended with a good result in my opinion; a majority of them, however, with a negative result. I always accepted the results. But now after very careful, sincere consideration, I as a learned jurist practicing for about 40 years, am sure that the result was manipulated in order to prevent a “blue” victory.

SI Pol OE Flagge mit kuk wappen 4-16These are the reasons submitted by the Freedom Party at an appeal against the election result lodged with the Austrian Constitutional Court which started hearings on the 20th of June:

  1. The dynamic of the election was clearly was on the side of the “blue”.
  2. The burning issues of state reform, high criminality, high unemployment, and a totally uncontrolled influx of so called “refugees”, clearly favoured the “blue” candidate. You may like or dislike their approach or answers, but these have been the “burning”, moving issues.
  3. The “blue” candidate did win the first run with 35%, the “green” one gaining only 21%. This result was against all predictions of the opinion pollsters who clearly favoured the “green” candidate and gave him a clear lead in the polls.
  4. After the first run, due to this “shocking” result, a front of the old party hacks (Christian Democrats, Socialists, Green-Alternatives, left wing liberals, Communists) was formed against the “blue” candidate. Plus, we experienced a lot of interventions from politicians of the European Union, who, without any scruples, interfered with the Austrian election. Plus, most journalists and the public broadcast corporation ORF (which should report neutrally and on a non-partisan basis) evidently took sides. So the whole established political class marched against the “blue” candidate. That is, however, not the point. You may form a “united front” in politics, but you have to stick to the rules.
  5. It may be the case that many people who fear change, and who doubted the intentions of the “blue” candidate changed their vote in the last days before the second run. We also have to emphasize that a lot of aggression (for example, the systematic smearing of “blue” posters) took place. An election which is about dramatic issues and fundamental decisions about the direction of future politics is not child’s play. A certain degree of “rough and tough” play can be expected.
  6. Anyway, the provisional result on Sunday evening, 22nd of May showed for the “blue” candidate 51.9% of the votes, versus the “green” candidate with 48.1%. Manipulations at the poll stations are not really thinkable as representatives of all candidates sit at all, or nearly all, of the poll stations, and are free to supervise the election process. I myself had been such a supervisor various times, and can attest that the danger of manipulation and “doctoring” is very, very small.
  7. This was a clear majority.
  8. The post votes (“voting cards”) which allow a voter to vote by mail were not included.
  9. In the post vote the “green” candidate received more than 60%, and the “blue” candidate less than 40%.
  10. On Monday morning independent election observers reported that the “green” candidate may win with 60% of the post vote alone.
  11. One of the most powerful politicians in Austria, the socialist mayor of Vienna, said in public that he will do everything to frustrate a victory for the “blue” candidate. As Landeshauptmann of Vienna he is the head of the provincial election authority. This is, from the point of view of “free and fair” elections, an impossible combination and would not be imaginable in South Africa.
  12. The President of the Constitutional Court said in a statement that it is unfortunate that post votes were not counted on election day evening, but one day later. So obviously he concluded that the present system may invite manipulation.
  13. A leading newspaper, Die Presse (not too friendly to the “blue” candidate), admitted that on a regional level manipulation with the counting of the post vote was a possibility.
  14. In the first run of the elections the result of voting cards for the “blue” candidate had not been significantly different from the provisional result. He lost from a share of 36.2% to 35.1%. That means statistically a loss of 1.1 percentage point.
  15. In the 2nd run it was a loss for him from 51.9 to 49.7%. This is a difference of 2.2 percentage points. This difference is statistically important as it means an increase of about 100% in loss. A 3.9 lead in percentage points had been turned around? That is most peculiar. It is possible but statistically very unlikely. But it is a massive indication that the counting of the post votes was manipulated.
  16. Such a difference in voting behaviour between voting in the polls and by card and between two runs of voting on the cards cannot be explained. That runs against experience and probability. This has to be examined by learned statisticians and professional observers of elections who can compare this pattern with other voting patterns.
  17. Furthermore, the percentage of invalid votes did rise significantly from the 1st run to the 2nd run. That could be explained if there would have been a movement formed by frustrated voters rejecting both candidates. But that did not exist. Both sides had been highly motivated and campaigned for their candidate. Therefore no proper statistical explanation exists for this change in numbers.
  18. It appeared now that the head of the election authority within the Federal Ministry of the Interior is a functionary in the Socialist Party of Vienna. I refer back to paragraph 10. That is most peculiar.
  19. Since the 23rd of May nearly every day irregularities, violations of rules, mismanagement and peculiar incidents appeared which gave us a very worrying picture of the whole counting process. Finally even the Ministry of the Interior, as supreme election authority, opened criminal cases against 94 election districts, this being more than 80% of all the districts.
  20. In districts where the “green” candidate won there were high rates of violent crime, especially by refugees or asylum seekers. But the “green” candidate stands for open immigration and is soft on crime! This is very peculiar especially as the most voting cards are issued to voters from big cities who tend to be on a weekend holiday during election Sunday and therefore have a need to apply for voting cards in order to exercise their vote.
  21. According to law the Minister of the Interior as head of the election commission announces the official, final result. He did that but this time also the President of the Republic himself announced it. You should have seen his body language: utterly nervous, stuttering, red in the face and deeply insecure. He announced the victory for the “green” candidate whom he personally, ideologically, favours.
  22. In South Africa the Constitutional Court issued last year a very well reasoned and in-depth ruling on manipulations at by-elections in Tlokwe (Potchefstroom). The ConCourt decided to annul the elections and ordered not only a repetition of the elections but also ordered the Independent Electoral Commission to change rules in order to safeguard elections against manipulations. The ConCourt expressly refused the argument that elections shall not be annulled as long as the rigging had no influence on the result. The ConCourt upheld the principle that ‘free and fair’ elections are such a fundamental right for the citizens, the candidates and the parties, that evident violations of the principle must lead to their annulment and repetition. Measured on that principle, the 2nd round of the presidential elections in Austria – I regret to say – had not been “free and fair”.
  23. The South African ConCourt also ruled that systematic damaging or demolition of advertising material may render an election unfree and unfair. Many posters of the “blue” candidate had been damaged, destroyed and smeared.
  24. The Austrian system of the election authorities (EA) is under the command of politicians (the Landeshauptmann of every province being the head of the provincial EA, the Minister of the Interior and Police being the supreme head of the EA) and is thus no longer state of the art. We have to ask for an Independent Electoral Commission organized according to the principles of the South African Constitution. That means that such an IEC is organized separately, independent and not subject to orders. That means that finally only the ConCourt may review their activities.
  25. The representative of the “blue” candidate has now disputed the election results and appealed to the Austrian ConCourt. In a very well documented paper of 15 pages, a multitude of shocking violations of the voting and election rules are put to the Court. The Austrian ConCourt has from 20th of June reserved four days for a public hearing. The court summoned more than 90 witnesses and I guess more are to come. Never in the history of disputing election results in Austria have so many witnesses been summoned.
  26. Also, constitutional lawyers who privately support the “green” candidate uttered shock and dismay about the multitude of violations of law and rules.
  27. Basically at present a lot of violations of law and rules, sloppiness, disregard for details and so on are in discussion. Statistically it is interesting that all these events favoured the “green” candidate and disfavoured the “blue” one. If it was really only more or less blind sloppiness both candidates must have been more or less equally favoured or handicapped by that.
  28. With all due respect and after careful consideration, I, as a trained jurist and attorney emeritus with a professional career since 1973 (beginning of my studies of law) may say with full conviction: this election was stolen, manipulated and rigged!
  29. As citizen of the Republic of Austria and a member of the ultimate sovereign, the assembled Citizens of Austria, I believe these actions have harmed us in our position as sovereign citizens.
  30. I have appealed to all my fellow citizens and to all who believe and support fair play and the rule of law to stand up and to resist within the framework of the legal order this blatant and scandalous manipulation. This appeal was quite successful. I have informed the legal team of the “blue” candidate about the South African legal situation and the Tlokwe judgment, and I do hope these arguments will be useful in the Austrian ConCourt.
  31. It is a fight for fairness, the rule of law and fair play!
  32. In the past, as a conservative-libertarian, I have, if confronted with criticism from abroad against the “Left”, defended them in principle and said, it is our task to discuss and decide. Those times are over. Fairness and correct behaviour have not been honoured.
  33. Corruption, manipulation, crass power plays, and dirty tricks seem to prevail. Not with me. Once again it is not about a preference for left or right or “blue” or “green” who all have their merits. It is about the very essence of constitutional democracy. Fair play, or tyranny.

On the 3oth of June the Austrian ConCourt did the unexpected and annulled the elections and ordered a re-run. Nothing better than a firm rule of law judgment on voting and all kind of political activities. The South African ConCourt made the same decision last year regarding the by-elections in Potchefstroom/Tlokwe. A profound decision which might have also influenced the Austrian ConCourt. Good to know, for us, as we go into hotly disputed communal elections on the  3rd of August.

Videant quirites

Dr.iuris Harald Sitta is an Austrian attorney emeritus and business owner who immigrated to South Africa in 2007.