Austria: Tough coalition talks await Sebastian Kurz

VIENNA

Austrian People’s Party (OVP) may have scored a landslide victory on Sunday’s snap parliamentary elections, however, it was not enough to form a government alone and a tough process of coalition talks is at the door.

The right-wing party headed by former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz received 37,1% of the votes, well ahead of Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPO) which received 21.7%. This was the lowest vote rate received by the SPO in its history.

The far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO), the former coalition partner of OVP, lost around 10% of votes compared to the previous elections.

This was mainly due to the corruption scandal which had also triggered the snap elections.

Decision for snap polls had come after the collapse of a 17-month far-right coalition this May after then-Vice Chancellor and FPO head Heinz Christian Strache stepped down due to a corruption scandal revealed through video footage.

For almost four months, the country has been ruled by former Constitutional Court head Brigitte Bierlein — appointed chancellor by President Alexander Van der Bellen — and the interim government she formed with high-level bureaucrats.

The opinion polls made before the elections had indicated the continuation of OVP-FPO coalition as the strongest possibility, but while FPO lost many more votes than the polls predicted, the Greens got much more votes.

This made a coalition of OVP and the Greens another possibility.

It is highly expected that Kurz will firstly approach its former coalition partner FPO for a formation of a new government, although OVP is unhappy about the corruption scandal which hit FPO.

Before the elections, Kurz has indicated that his party intends to continue coalition with FPO.

But after the election results, FPO officials have hinted in their statements that they could prefer to be in opposition, rather than taking part in a coalition government.

These developments indicate that the coalition talks to form the new government are likely to be tough in Austria.

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