Europe

Kurz faces tough talks over new Austria coalition after poll success

Austrian conservative leader Sebastian Kurz basked in election victory yesterday, his People’s Party (OVP) strengthened by a parliamentary contest that punished the scandal-hit far-right, although tough talks lie ahead on forming a ruling coalition.

Sunday’s snap vote followed the collapse in May of Mr Kurz’s coalition with the right-wing Freedom Party (FPO) after a video sting that forced FPO vice chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache to step down.

Mr Kurz (33) emerged largely unscathed from the uproar, with the OVP (37.1pc of the projected vote) having its widest lead over the second-place Social Democrats (21.7pc) in the post-war era. He now faces tortuous negotiations to choose one or two partners with which to govern.

His most likely coalition choices are to ally with the resurgent Greens, possibly in a three-way tie-up with the liberal Neos (7.8pc), or link up again with the FPO.

But FPO leader Norbert Hofer called chances of a renewed alliance “very unlikely” given its poor showing (16.1pc) on Sunday.

Austrian voters’ top concern is the environment, surveys show, which helped lift the Greens to a record 14pc of the vote from less than 4pc in 2017, when they crashed out of parliament.

A coalition with the Social Democrats is mathematically possible, but unlikely under their current leadership.

Mr Kurz is keeping his cards close to the chest, reiterating his mantra that he would talk to all other parties in parliament to seek a stable coalition.

“The challenge for us will be securing good economic growth in the future as well and doing our utmost to keep unemployment in Austria from rising again.

“This is going to be a challenging phase,” he said.

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