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Austrian conservatives clearly ahead in legislative poll

Support for the FPÖ party has declined somewhat and the Greens achieved the highest score in their history.

Published: September 30, 2019, 9:02 am

    It was expected, and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz did not disappoint. The Austrian People’s Party [ÖVP, Conservatives] is credited with 37,2 percent of the votes (+5 points), according to preliminary estimates of the Austrian parliamentary elections, the regional French daily Ouest-France reported.

    Polls have previously indicated that ÖVP could win with about 34 percent of the votes and would then have to decide either to once again form a coalition with FPÖ or to turn left to the Greens for a new coalition.

    These figures are however not yet firm, since out of the 6,4 million registered voters, over a million of them voted by mail and their votes will be counted only by Monday.

    The FPÖ has suffered a decline by contenting itself with 17 percent of the vote, a drop of nine points. The Greens, on the other hand, made an unprecedented breakthrough, with a score of 12 percent (+8 points), the highest score in their history.

    It remains to be seen with whom Sebastian Kurz will decide to form an alliance to reunite the majority in Parliament. The first coalition ended in May, following a corruption scandal manufactured against the former National Vice-Chancellor (FPÖ) Heinz-Christian Strache.

    At the end of these elections, Sebastian Kurz could therefore ally with the Social Democrats of the SPÖ. The only problem is that he was elected in 2017 by voters tired of the great SPÖ-ÖVP coalition, governing since 2007.

    Kurz has therefore, for the moment, excluded an alliance with them. He could choose to ally again with the FPÖ but it is an “unlikely” option for Austrian political advisor Peter Plaikner. “Kurz is keen on his international renown and he knows that if there is a second coalition with the far right, it will be tainted,” he told the regional French daily. Rather, he sees an alliance with the Greens, “or a three-way coalition with the Neos,” the Liberals credited with 7,8 percent.

    A snap parliamentary election was held in Austria on Sunday following the Ibiza affair in May that caused ex-leader of the Freedom Party of Austria, Strache to resign leading to the collapse of the ruling coalition.

    The scandal was triggered by a release of footage showing Strache allegedly discussing exchanging government contracts for help in elections with an alleged niece of a Latvian oligarch. The woman was later revealed to be a Bosnian student who was paid for the setup.

    The Socialist Party (SPÖ) is predicted to receive 22 percent of the votes and FPÖ is eyeing third place with at least 20 percent of the votes. The Green party was expecting to get 12 percent of the support.

    Zsolt Enyedi, professor at the Department of Political Science at Central European University, predicted that ÖVP was likely to get the biggest number of votes though not the absolute majority necessary for the formation of the government.

    “ÖVP will get plurality but not an absolute majority, the Greens will show the most increase in votes, and that Kurz will favour a coalition with an FPÖ that accepts a marginal position in the government eg they may withdraw the previous minister of interior affairs, Kickl”, Enyedi told Sputnik News.

    Director of European Studies at SETA Foundation Dr. Enes Bayrakli also expected an ÖVP victory

    “I think according to latest polls the People’s Party [OVP] they will get a majority of the votes. That is for sure. But they won’t be able to form a government without a coalition. They will need to build a coalition”, Bayrakli said.

    According to Bayrakli, however Austria’s domestic policies were likely to continue shifting to the right. A member of Italy’s Lega party, Andrea Picchielli, noted new FPÖ leader Norbert Hofer’s efforts in trying to get closer to ÖVP underlining common views.

    “Austria traditionally has been active in ‘bridge-building to the east’, increasing contacts at all levels with Eastern Europe and the states of the former Soviet Union and I think the new government will go with this foreign policy view, just further from Moscow and increasing the contacts with the Russophobic countries, that were afraid of the Russian friendly vision of Austria”, Picchielli said.

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    • LuciusAnnaeusSeneca

      Excellent article, and a good antidote to the wire service reports that seem determined to suggest to their readership that Kurz’ OVP partnership with the Greens is all but a done deal. We might wonder who Reuters, AP, and others believe they are serving publishing article after article of their prognostications, most of it short on facts, including exit poll and other polling results, which is something that the readership expects.

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