Center-right wins, but far-right surges in Austria vote

Frederick Owens
October 16, 2017

Kurz has been pledging to shut down migrant routes and cut benefits to refugees living in Austria.

Voting in a snap election in Austria is now underway, with head of the People's Party (OVP) Sebastian Kurz, 31, projected to obtain more than 30% of the vote and become the EU's youngest leader.

The incredibly close result puts foreign minister Sebastian Kurz, 31, on track to become Europe's youngest head of government. This comes as nationalist movements are on the rise across Germany, Hungary and Poland.

Chancellor Christian Kern's Social Democratic Party (SPO) managed to secure second place after a neck-and-neck race with the far-right Freedom Party, or FPO.

The 2015 influx of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the war in Syria and poverty elsewhere into the EU's prosperous heartland left Austria with almost 100,000 new and mostly Muslim migrants.

"Neither a coalition with the FPO nor one with the SPO has been agreed", Kurz told broadcaster ORF when pressed on his plans.

Immigration has dominated the campaign.

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The vote is coming a year ahead of schedule after squabbles led to the breakup last spring of the coalition government of the Social Democrats and the People's Party.

The SPO, which was hit two weeks ago by a smear scandal that forced its chairman to step down, warned of a repeat of the OVP-FPO coalition in the early 2000s that was marked by financial scandals.

Kurz became the leader of the party in May.

The election victor forms a government that will likely require a coalition with one of the two other main parties. Three smaller parties are polling between 4 per cent, which is the threshold for entering Parliament, and 6 per cent.

Mr Van der Bellen must swear in any new government and a strong showing by the Freedom Party and the People's Party would make a ruling coalition between them likely.

"But the question is whether there is any getting around Strache after this election".

Although the Social Democrats have come either first or second in elections since World War II, voters are now more receptive to calls for tougher migration rules than the party's focus on social justice.

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