Election triumph leaves Austria's Kurz with coalition options

Election triumph leaves Austria's Kurz with coalition options

Austrian conservative leader Sebastian Kurz triumphed in Sunday’s parliamentary election while the scandal-tainted far right took a beating and the Greens surged, leaving Kurz the option of forming a coalition with either of them, reports Trend referring to Reuters.

The election followed the collapse in May of Kurz’s coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) after a video sting scandal that forced FPO Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache to step down.

Kurz, 33, has emerged largely unscathed from the scandal, even siphoning off voters from the FPO as further allegations surfaced last week over lavish and possibly fraudulent expenses Strache claimed from the party. Strache denies any wrongdoing.

As suggested by opinion polls for months, Kurz’s People’s Party (OVP) came a comfortable first, with 37.2% of the vote, according to a projection by pollster SORA for national broadcaster ORF based on a partial vote count.

“It was a difficult four months and now the population has voted us back in,” Kurz told his supporters without indicating what his coalition preference might be.

His two most likely choices are to ally with the FPO again or else with the Greens, possibly in a three-way tie-up with the liberal Neos. A centrist coalition with the Social Democrats is possible but unlikely under their current leadership.

The SORA projection showed the Social Democrats coming second with 21.7%, their worst result since World War Two but still well ahead of the FPO on 16.0% and the resurgent Greens on a record 14.0%. The projection had a margin of error of 0.9 percentage points.

“The ball is in Sebastian Kurz’s court now,” the left-wing Greens’ campaign manager Thimo Fiesel told ORF when asked about a coalition with Kurz. “There is still a majority (for Kurz’s OVP) with the FPO.”

Kurz has repeatedly said he will talk to all parties before narrowing down his preferences.

While the FPO even issued campaign videos appealing to Kurz to revive their coalition, it was less clear whether they remained keen after their support collapsed by around 10 points compared with the last election in 2017.

“From my point of view this is no mandate to continue the (previous) coalition,” FPO Chairman Harald Vilimsky told ORF, though he did not rule out another tie-up with Kurz’s party.

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