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Oct 15, 2017: Austrian election might deliver populist government

AUSTRIA - A snap election appears likely to consolidate centre-right power or push the country further to the right.

Chancellor Christian Kern of the Social Democrats (SPOe), conceded in May that the governing centrist coalition with the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (OeVP) had collapsed. He had wanted the bickering coalition to hold together until the end of its term in 2018, but Sebastian Kurz, the foreign minister and new leader of the OeVP, had campaigned on a promise to end it and call for new elections.

Kurz, who was 27 years old when he took office as the country’s foreign minister, is now 30. His OeVP is lagging behind the SPOe and the populist Freedom Party (FPOe), but he is widely seen as capable of moving the conservative party up the ladder.

Ex-chancellor Kern warns that an early election opens the door for the far-right FPOe to enter the national government. Support for the populists has risen on the back of concerns about immigration, terrorism and falling living standards. Polls show the FPOe close to the Social Democrats in opinion polls. FPO candidate Norbert Hofer narrowly lost the vote for the presidency, a largely ceremonial post, in 2016.

Agence France Presse and other news organizations foresee the possibility of the FPO winning a place in government, most likely in coalition with OeVP, following the October election. The agency notes that the two main parties, which have governed the EU country since 1945, have seen their support slide as they fail to connect with voters.

#22170 Published: 05/22/2017

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