Thursday

30th Mar 2017

Austria coalition re-elected, but anti-EU parties gain

  • Werner Faymann hopes to remake the centrist coalition (Photo: SPÖ)

Austria's centrist coalition led by Chancellor Werner Faymann scored a razor-thin majority in Sunday's (29 September) elections, with anti-EU populists and right-wing nationalists boosting their ranks in the Alpine country.

The two main centrist parties - Faymann's Social Democrats (SPO) and the centre-right People's Party (OVP) - together got only 50.9 percent of the vote, their worst score since the Second World War.

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The vote is enough to remake the grand coalition that has been governing Austria since 2008, but OVP chief and foreign minister Michael Spindelegger is suggesting tough negotiations as he does not rule out talks with other parties.

"Voters gave us a warning note. We cannot carry on as before," Spindelegger said.

Meanwhile, populist anti-EU parties have grown to a combined 27 percent in a country where people can vote from the age of 16 and stand as candidates once they are 18.

The anti-euro, anti-immigrant Freedom Party (FPO) scored its best result since 1999, with 21.4 percent of the vote, under the leadership of 44-year old Heinz-Christian Strache, whom supporters call "HC."

Strache, who is similar in style to the late right-wing nationalist Joerg Haider, appeals to young and rural voters with his simple discourse emphasising the rights of Austrians over immigrants, the illegality of euro-bailouts and his country's possibility to quit the euro.

Haider's party, BZO, failed to make it into the parliament, scoring only 3.6 percent.

But a new populist party led by 81-year old businessman Frank Stronach managed to enter with 5.8 percent of the vote. "Team Stronach" campaigned on splitting the euro along national lines, "because a German or Austrian euro is worth more than a Greek one" and having the death penalty reintroduced for "professional hit men."

Another newcomer to the Austrian parliament is the liberal Neos party, which scored 4.8 percent of the vote - over the four-percent threshold to make it into the legislature. The Greens are also represented in the parliament, having garnered 11.5 percent of the vote.

This article was corrected to say that FPO had its best result since 1999, not its best result ever.

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Buoyed by their recent success in the polls, the Austrian and French far right have made a fresh push for respectability in the European Parliament. A blurring of the 'softer' far right with eurosceptic parties may be in the offing.

Austrians give landslide to Social Democrat president

Austria's incumbent Social Democrat president, Heinz Fischer, won a second six-year term in office on Sunday, with 79 percent of the vote. But a far-right candidate, Barbara Rosenkranz, known for opposition to the country's Holocaust denial laws that had dominated election news, in the end captured only 15 percent.

Focus

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The daughter of the late far-right Austrian politician Joerg Haider has announced she will run in the European Parliament elections for the eurosceptic Alliance for the Future of Austria.

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