Monday 19 March 2018

Austrian chancellor resigns over win for far-right

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has resigned
Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has resigned

Anita Florence in Vienna

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann resigned yesterday following the triumph by the far-right last month in the first round of presidential elections.

"He has resigned from all functions," spokeswoman Anja Richter confirmed.

In the first round of elections to the largely ceremonial post of president on April 24, Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) came first with 35pc.

Mr Hofer will now face Alexander van der Bellen, a former head of the Greens, in a run-off on May 22.

The two candidates from the ruling coalition parties, Mr Faymann's centre-left Social Democrats (SPOe) and the centre-right People's Party (OeVP), were knocked out. This means that for the first time since 1945, there will not be a president from either of these two centrist parties.

The two parties have dominated Austrian politics since World War II, but their support has been sliding for years. At the last general election, in 2013, they only just scratched together a majority.

Now, the FPOe is leading opinion polls with over 30pc, the SPOe and the OeVP with less than 50pc between them.

The FPOe has been boosted by unease about the arrival last year of 90,000 asylum-seekers.

Mr Faymann has been chancellor since 2008. The SPOe, which rules neutral Austria in a coalition with the OeVP, suffered a major defeat last month in first-round voting for the next president when both parties scraped together just 23pc. Mr Hofer, running on an anti-Islam and eurosceptic platform, won more than a third of the votes.

The FPO regularly attracts more than 30pc in opinion polls, well ahead of the two ruling parties. The next parliamentary elections are due to be held by 2018.

The spokeswoman for Faymann (56) said she did not know what would happen to the coalition government.

A spokesman for the head of the OeVP, Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner, was not immediately available for comment.

Austria got around 90,000 asylum requests in 2015 after large numbers of migrants and refugees, many fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, arrived in the staunchly Roman Catholic country of 8.5 million people.

Irish Independent

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