Photo Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party, left, and Alexander Van der Bellen, a former leader of the Green Party. Mr. Hofer lost to Mr. Van der Bellen in a May 22 vote. Credit Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters BERLIN The political turmoil in Europe spread on Friday when Austrias highest court ordered a repeat of presidential elections narrowly lost in May by a far-right candidate, Norbert Hofer.

Mr. Hofers Freedom Party claimed gross irregularities in the absentee ballot count that followed voting on May 22. Mr. Hofer was leading after polls closed that day, but final results after a count of about 700,000 postal ballots put Alexander Van der Bellen, 72, a former leader of the Green Party, ahead by roughly 31,000 votes.

If elected, Mr. Hofer, 45, would be the first far-right politician elected head of state in Europe since World War II.

The mandate of the incumbent president, Heinz Fischer, expires this month. In the interim, the Constitution provides for leadership by a group of three politicians from different political parties, one of whom is Mr. Hofer.

It was the first time that a total rerunning of an election had been ordered in post-1945 Austria. The runoff will most likely be held in September or October.

The presidential race in Austria had split the country, and emotions are now likely to run high once more.

In announcing the verdict of the Constitutional Court, its chairman, Gerhart Holzinger, said the court was guided solely by its mission to ensure the rule of law and democracy.

The challenge is upheld, he said. The runoff must be repeated in all of Austria.

The decision came after a week of turmoil in Britain, following its stunning referendum vote on June 23 to leave the European Union. Both mainstream political parties, the governing Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party, have been deeply divided since the vote, and it is unclear who will succeed Prime Minister David Cameron, who has announced he will step down by October.

The Austrian presidency has traditionally been seen as a largely ceremonial post. But Mr. Hofer ran on a platform of making it more active, saying he would measure whether the mainstream parties of center-right and center-left were tackling the issues most important to the country.

Both mainstream parties failed by a large margin to get their candidates through to the May 22 runoff. Chancellor Werner Faymann, a Social Democrat, resigned as a result, and Christian Kern, a reform-minded Social Democrat, took over as head of government.

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