Friday

13th Dec 2019

Kurz wins in Austria with best result since 2002

The leader of the conservative Austria's People's Party (ÖVP) Sebastian Kurz won Sunday's snap parliamentary election with 38.4 percent of the votes - ÖVP's best result since 2002 - after Kurz lost a confidence vote in May.

Austria has been led by a caretaker government, headed by the constitutional lawyer Brigitte Bierlein since Kurz's coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) collapsed due to the 'Ibiza video's scandal'.

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That video showed the leader of far-right Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, promising government contracts to a fake Russian oligarch.

"Today, the people have voted us back in again," Kurz, 33, told cheering supporters after the election.

The ÖVP was well ahead of the rest (winning 73 seats in the 183-seat Austrian legislature): the Social Democrats won 21.5 percent of the votes (41 seats), the far-right FPO 17.3 percent (32 seats), the Greens 12.4 percent (23 seats), and the liberal Neos 7.4 percent (14 seats), according to the election results released late Sunday night by Austria's interior ministry.

Kurz's party won in every Austrian region except for the capital Vienna where the Social Democrats came top.

The Austrian Greens, which in 2017 failed to get over the four percent threshold, were also one of the winners of Sunday's elections.

Sunday election's turnout was nearly 75.5 percent - with a total of 6.4 million voters eligible to vote.

Possible coalition partners

The result of Sunday's election force Kurz to find a coalition partner to form a stable government - he said that he was willing to discuss with all parties after the election if he won.

The FPO's new leader Norbert Hofer told Austria media he believed his party would not take part in coalition talks, after they lost 10 percent of votes in Sunday's election.

"A party needs to learn from the mistakes of the past and rebuild itself," he said.

The Greens leader, Werner Kogler, said his party would only consider a coalition with Kurz if there was a "radical change" in the political direction of the party compared to his previous coalition with the far-right.

"We might end up having no government," Kogler said.

The Social Democrats, who have led many of Austria's previous coalitions, remain a possible partner.

Despite their political proximity, a coalition with the liberals Neos seems unlikely since they only received 7.8 percent of the votes.

The Greens and Social Democrats complained in the past that Kurz's former coalition government reduced social benefits, particularly for families with several children.

"We cannot undo everything that has been done," the Greens leader Kogler said before the elections.

In his election proposal, Kurz promised tax cuts for businesses and families and €5bn in public spending cuts.

"I want to pursue decent centre-right politics," he told the Austrian media.

Analysis

Sunday's election in Austria: What to expect?

If successful in Sunday's poll, Sebastian Kurz will face three difficult options - a renewed alliance with the disgraced hard-right Freedom Party, a return to a 'Grand Coalition' with the socialists, or a risky three-way split with Greens and liberals.

Strache scandal: how big a hit will Austrian far-right take?

This is a political crisis unprecedented in Austria since the war: the resignation of the vice-chancellor, firing of the interior minister, the mass resignation of FPO ministers, a snap election, and a no-confidence vote in the Austrian parliament on Monday.

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