Kurz Triumphs in Austria’s Early Elections in Wake of Strache Scandal

Kurz Triumphs in Austria’s Early Elections in Wake of Strache Scandal

Austria could be headed for a conservative – green ruling coalition.

The conservative Austrian People’s Party (OeVP) led by Sebastian Kurz emerged triumphant in Sunday’s early elections in Austria, which were called after Kurz’s first Cabinet was brought down in May 2019 as his coalition far-right coalition partner was suspected of undisclosed ties with Russia in the so called Strache Scandal, also known as “Ibizagate”.

Sebastian Kurz became the world’s youngest head of government in 2017 as the leader of OeVP and ruled for a year-and-a-half in a coalition with the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe) before the eruption of the Strache Scandal, with Austria holding the rotating EU Presidency in the meantime.

According to the election results released late Sunday night by Austria’s Interior Ministry, the OeVP won 38.4% of the vote, which would translate into 73 seats in the 183-seat Austrian legislation – up from 31.5% and 62 seats in the 2017 parliamentary elections.

The OeVP won in every Austrian region except for the capital Vienna where the leftist Austrian Social Democratic Party (OeSP) came in first. The OeSP won 21.5% of the votes (41 seats), down from 26.9% (52 seats).

In the wake of the Strache Scandal, the far-right FPOe now saw substantial electoral losses, with 17.3% of the votes and 32 seats, down from 26% of the votes and 51 seats won back in 2017.

The Austrian Greens scored substantial gains in Sunday’s early parliamentary elections, winning 12.4% of the votes and 23 seats in Austria’s National Council, up from 3.8% of the votes and no parliamentary seats back in 2017.

The liberal political party NEOS also performed better, winning 7.4% and 14 seats, up from 5.3% and 10 seats two years ago, concluding the list of the five political parties overcoming the threshold for entering Austria’s parliament.

A total of 6.4 million voters were eligible to cast their votes in Austria’s early elections on Sunday, and the turnout was nearly 61%.

The full results are expected next week as about 1 million postal votes are yet to be counted.

The Strache Scandal, which caused the downfall of the first Kurz Cabinet and the early elections in Austria, saw the country’s FPOe Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache being secretly taped promising lucrative public contracts to the pretend niece of a Russian oligarch in exchange for funding. The video of Strache meeting with a bogus Russian investor posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch in the Spanish resort of Ibiza back in 2017 was leaked by German media.

The immediate commentaries on Sunday night were that Sebastian Kurz and his conservative People’s Party are likely to form a governing coalition with the Greens although the leftist SPOe was also a possible partner.

After the early election results became known on Sunday day, Kurz did not specify which party he preferred as his new coalition party.

“Today, the people have voted us back to power,” Kurz told his supporters after the election.

“A party needs to learn from the mistakes of the past and rebuild itself,” said in turn Norbert Hofer, the new leader of the far-right FPOe, making it clear that the formation would prefer to remain in opposition.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Austrian Greens, Werner Kogler, made it clear that for a ruling coalition with the OeVP to materialize, the latter would have to demonstrate “radical” changes in its approaches towards climate change issues.

“We might end up having no government [unless that happens],” Kogler said.

(Banner image: Sebastian Kurz on Twitter)

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