Monday 14 October 2019

Austria’s ex-chancellor Sebastian Kurz seeks coalition deal after poll success

He says he is prepared to deal with all his rivals in a bid to form an administration.

Former Austrian chancellor and top candidate of the Austrian People’s Party, OEVP, Sebastian Kurz talks to his supporters (Matthias Schrader/AP)
Former Austrian chancellor and top candidate of the Austrian People’s Party, OEVP, Sebastian Kurz talks to his supporters (Matthias Schrader/AP)

By Associated Press Reporter

Austria’s former chancellor Sebastian Kurz has refused to rule out any options for forming a new government, including courting the far-right Freedom Party that suffered heavy losses following corruption allegations.

Mr Kurz’s conservative People’s Party finished first with 37.1% of the vote in Sunday’s early election and he said he planned to honour his pledge to talk to all rivals about the possibility of a coalition.

“Of course we will seek talks with all parties and try to determine which parties there’s overlap with, which parties a stable government can be formed with,” he told public broadcaster ORF.

Election posters featuring Sebastian Kurz (Ronald Zak/AP)

The 33-year-old also bristled at calls from German commentators for his party to shun a fresh coalition with far-right partners.

“I don’t think we need advice from abroad, including from Germany,” he said.

A video showing former Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache offering favours to a purported Russian investor triggered the collapse of Mr Kurz’s 17-month government with them in May.

Mr Strache also faces an investigation for suspected breach of trust over the alleged billing of private expenses to his party, which contributed to its weak third-place finish Sunday with 16% of the vote.

Pictures of first results are taken in Vienna (Ronald Zak/AP)

The Freedom Party has indicated it plans to move into opposition to rebuild itself, leaving Mr Kurz with only two realistic options: joining with the second-placed Social Democrats, whose share of the vote fell to 21.7%, or the environmentalist Greens, who staged a big comeback after failing to enter parliament in 2017 and received 14% support on Sunday.

“I fear (coalition talks) will be a little bit more challenging this time,” said Mr Kurz.

Mr Kurz said safeguarding the economy in this Alpine nation of 8.8 million would be the main task for the coming years, citing a looming economic downturn in neighbouring Germany, the unsolved issue of Britain’s impending departure from the European Union and the bloc’s trade tensions with the United States.

PA Media

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