The Swedish Standards Institute has declared its recent vote in favour of Microsoft’s Office Open XML format as invalid, after Microsoft was discovered offering “incentives.”

The decision means that Sweden will probably abstain from an important upcoming international vote on whether to make the format a standard.

Interestingly, the reason given by SIS was not the controversial circumstances surrounding the vote, in which Microsoft was found to have offered companies “incentives” if they voted in favour of OOXML. Instead, SIS cited a technicality, saying proper procedures had not been followed.

“It appears that one of the organisations that took part had two votes. Since the rules weren’t followed, the decision made earlier is void,” SIS President Lars Flink told Computer Sweden.

A new vote will now be held. It probably won’t be possible to arrange it by Sunday however - the deadline for countries to submit their votes on whether to standardise the format to the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). The ISO will then tally the results and publish the result early next week.

“The board of SIS knows that there is not much time, which means that Sweden won’t take part [in the ISO vote], although we won't know for certain until Sunday,” Flink said.

He denied that the storm of criticism directed at the vote was behind SIS’s decision to declare its vote invalid.

“The vote has been criticised, but that is not the reason for our decision,” he said. “The sole reason is that one of the companies that voted cast more than one vote. No member company has more than one vote.”

The original decision to accept OOXML as an ISO standard was taken by the Swedish working group earlier this week. Microsoft Sweden was later found to have offered extra “marketing contributions” to its business partners in emails to encourage them to vote for OOXML.

A Microsoft manager said this week that the email “should never have been sent.”

SIS said it is now “practically and formally impossible for the Swedish working group to arrange a new vote before 2 September, when the global vote is closed. If a new Swedish vote cannot be arranged, Sweden will abstain from voting.”

About 100 countries will take part in the vote. OOXML is Microsoft’s rival to the Open Document Format (ODF), which is used by applications including OpenOffice.org and Star Office. ODF has already been adopted by the ISO as an international standard, but Microsoft is pushing ISO to have OOXML adopted as well.

(Translation provided by Anders Lotsson)