Snap elections in Austria after coalition collapses
19 May, 2017
The political crisis in Austria, caused by the collapse of the grand coalition is to be solved by snap elections on 15 October, party chiefs agreed last Tuesday. The coalition between Chancellor Christian Kern's Social Democrats (SPO) and the People's Party (OVP) was meant to govern until 2018. But after months of bickering, the centre-right OVP last Sunday appointed a new chief, the 30-year-old Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz (pictured), who called for early elections. Kurz replaced as party leader the vice-chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner, who resigned from his role.
The early vote could see the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), whose candidate narrowly failed to be elected president in December, enter government, news wires reported. The FPO, like other populist parties in Europe, has seen its support rise on the back of concerns about immigration, terrorism and falling living standards. The FPO, led by social media-savvy Heinz-Christian Strache, 47, was running neck-and-neck with the SPO on around 30% in opinion polls. But since the People's Party called for early elections and elected Sebastian Kurz as its new leader, its popularity ratings have jumped to 35% in a Research Affairs poll from around 20% in recent months.
The Social Democrats ruled with the FPO from 1983 to 1987. In 2000, the OVP and FPO agreed on a government headed by the OVP's Wolfgang Schuessel, which led to a six-month diplomatic boycott of Austria by other EU Member States, Reuters recalls.