Austria’s SPÖ shares wrong leadership poll winner after Excel error


A major Austrian opposition political party on Monday corrected the results of a closely contested leadership election after it announced the wrong winner over the weekend due to a “technical” error: Someone had messed up an Excel spreadsheet.

At a convention on Saturday, Austria’s Social Democrats (SPÖ) declared that Hans Peter Doskozil, governor of the eastern Burgenland province, was the new leader of the center-left party. But on Monday, the party said Andreas Babler, a small-town mayor and lesser-known figure, had actually won, with about 52 percent of the votes.

“Unfortunately, the paper ballots did not match the result that was announced digitally,” Michaela Grubesa, head of the SPÖ electoral commission, said a news conference. “Due to a colleague’s technical error in the Excel list, the result was mixed up.”

Those familiar with Microsoft’s spreadsheet program, which is used by millions around the world, were quick to crack jokes, bringing wider attention to the error and ensuing chaos.

Babler said at a news conference after his belated apparent victory that the commission should count the vote again for accuracy’s sake, local media reported, adding that the debacle was “painful for everyone involved” and bad for the party’s image.

“I feel sorry not only for Hans Peter Doskozil, but for the entire movement,” he said.

The spreadsheet slip-up threatens to further erode trust in the Social Democrats, the largest federal opposition grouping in Austria, despite dissatisfaction with the country’s ruling party, which has had to grapple with scandal.

Since 2020, the conservative People’s Party has led Austria in a coalition government with the Greens. In the most recent round of parliamentary elections in 2019, the SPÖ earned 21.2 percent of the popular vote. It has not held power in the federal legislature since 2017.

The leadership change comes as the SPÖ gears up for another federal election, which must be held by the end of 2024. Some of its opponents took the situation as an opportunity to criticize the SPÖ’s shortcomings.

Parties that can’t organize internal elections properly can’t win national polls, said Douglas Hoyos, a member of the centrist NEOS party, on Twitter. “Austrians deserve better,” he added.

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Saturday’s kerfuffle was not the first time an Excel error undermined an election. In 2007, a rights group said that ballot counters internally reported the wrong winner in a Scottish election after failing to count all the votes for one particular party in an Excel sheet, the Guardian reported. Local officials contested that account.

Some Twitter users on Monday offered to help the SPÖ out.

One user tagged the SPÖ’s account in a post advertising a beginner Excel course in Vienna.

Another posted what appears to be an Amazon order confirmation for the book “Excel for Dummies” — to be shipped to the SPÖ office. “This is all I can do as a simple citizen,” the user wrote.


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