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Sebastian Kurz

Austria’s foreign minister calls for snap elections in shift to right

Sebastian Kurz, who has been appointed as new leader of the Austrian People's Party, has called for a snap election after Social Democratic Chancellor Christian Kern conceded the implosion of the governing coalition.

Published: May 15, 2017, 10:41 am

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    Vienna

    Kurz, Austria’s foreign minister, was elected on Sunday following the resignation earlier this week of Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner. “There will definitely … be an election, I assume in the coming autumn,” Kern told Austria’s ORF TV.

    The newly-elected leader, said that he would hold talks with his social democratic coalition partners and suggest they jointly propose a snap election.

    “I will meet Chancellor Christian Kern and President [Alexander] Van der Bellen tomorrow and make a suggestion,” Kurz said. “From my point of view the first step must be that we reach a joint decision in favor of snap elections.”

    The chancellor has so far been reluctant to call a snap election, but Kurz’s appointment at the helm of his party effectively has forced his hand.

    Kern has warned that an early election could see the Freedom Party entering the national government. Polls show the party leading in opinion polls, while the party’s candidate last year in the presidential election, Norbert Hofer, made it to the final runoff, narrowly losing to the lefist Alexander Van der Bellen.

    Kurz has previously suggested that “refugees should be held offshore”. Last year he praise Australia’s immigration policy and said it should be replicated by the EU in order to deal with the current influx of refugees.

    Migrants who try to reach Australia by boat are turned back or sent to holding camps in the Pacific Ocean countries of Nauru and Papua New Guinea while their cases are processed.

    “The Australian model of course cannot be completely replicated but its principles can be applied in Europe,” Kurz, who at 29 years old is Europe’s youngest minister, told Die Presse in an interview.

    He also told the newspaper that the EU should adopt a resolution whereby those who try to enter Europe illegally lose their right to demand asylum.

    Kurz’s shift to the right could see the people’s Party and Freedom Party form a conservative coalition in Austria. In the parliament’s current formation, the two parties are just three seats shy of a majority.

    Andreas Schieder, who leads the Social Democrats in parliament, accused on Kurz on Austrian public radio of “playing tactical games for egocentric reasons”.

    He was the chairman of the youth branch of the People’s Party in 2009 before he became a member of Vienna’s city council in 2010.

    He was then appointed State Secretary for Integration in 2011, and later foreign minister after he was elected as a member of parliament in the 2013 general election.

    He has suggested that the European Union puts Turkey’s accession talks on hold.

    At the regional level, the People’s Party, the traditional home of older rural voters, has maintained its appeal and leads six of Austria’s nine provinces.

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