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People's Party election poster. Screenshot from YouTube

Austrian conservative coalition may be revived

Austria's Freedom Party has not been hurt much by "Ibiza-gate" that brought down the government in May, and the party is eyeing a second chance in national elections next month.

Published: September 2, 2019, 10:20 am

    Vienna

    Pundit Thomas Hofer, told AFP that former chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservative People’s Party may partner with the Freedom Party once more in a re-run of late 2017 when the two parties pledged to govern on an anti-immigration platform.

    “Often it only takes a little push to continue together,” Norbert Hofer said, who replaced Heinz-Christian Strache as Freedom Party leader. He said he would enter into a coalition with Kurz. Both have sustained their popularity, according to polls.

    In a sentence at the end of a nearly two-minute election spot of the Freedom Party, which shows the blue party leader Hofer together with Sebastian Kurz attending couples therapy, the message is: The two parties should clear away their disagreements and try again to work together.

    Thomas Hofer said the possibility of a fresh coalition could not be dismissed since “any other form of coalition would be unstable”. The coalition ended in May when hidden camera footage from 2017 was leaked which showed former Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache appearing with some “Russian” imposters.

    Strache resigned as vice chancellor after the manufactured scandal which saw Kurz dismissed in a no-confidence vote. Fresh elections are set to take place on September 29.

    “We extend a sincere hand to the conservatives to continue the work begun together to reform Austria,” Hofer said. He ran for president in 2016 and only narrowly lost to a green liberal politician.

    Strache meanwhile has almost 800 000 followers on his Facebook page, more than his party colleagues and most other Austrian politicians. His wife Philippa is currently running for a parliament seat on the party’s list.

    The People’s Party is still the strongest party with 36 percent, while the Freedom Party has 20 percent, according to a recent survey by the Unique Research institute published in the weekly Profil magazine.

    Kurz’s popularity is four percentage points higher than in October 2017.

    Kurz and Herbert Kickl are both currently campaigning on a Jörg Haider slogan. The slogan “One who speaks our language” was created by Herbert Kickl for Haider in 1999.

    In the intensive election campaign, the People’s Party now relies entirely on its leading candidate Kurz. This is also clear from the election posters.

    The week before, the Freedom Party launched a similar campaign: “One who speaks our language”. Ex-Minister of the Interior Herbert Kickl is in the picture showing him talking to policemen.

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