Austria: election winner Kurz to form government

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Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen has entrusted ÖVP leader Sebastian Kurz to form a new government – and asked that climate protection be placed high on the agenda. Kurz sees other problems as more pressing.

After leading the conservative ÖVP to a clear victory in the parliamentary elections on 29 September, Kurz is now tasked with building a new coalition government. In Vienna, President Van der Bellen said that climate change should be at the top of the agenda for the future government. Kurz, however, said that the biggest challenge was to come up with a concept to counter the threat of an economic downturn. The central task must be to ensure that unemployment does not rise, Kurz said. At the same time, the tax burden for employees and pensioners should be reduced. The fourth point Kurz mentioned was climate change, to which Austria should react with an eco-social market economy. According to Kurz, his plan is to prove “that it is possible to bring people, nature and the economy into harmony”.

Protracted negotiations to be expected

Kurz also wants a new government to focus on combating illegal immigration. “Now we are once again experiencing very fragile migration movements, particularly in Turkey. Stopping illegal migration in Austria and Europe is therefore one of the concrete goals with which he intends to enter into the forthcoming exploratory talks. Kurz announced that he would hold talks with all parties represented in the National Council. Long negotiations are expected. In the past, the talks lasted up to 129 days. The acting Vice-Chancellor Clemens Jabloner said that he expected the transitional government to stay in office “into the winter”.

During the election campaign and also after the parliamentary elections, Kurz said he did not want to exclude any party as a possible coalition partner. He could revive the government alliance with the right-wing populist FPÖ, which lost ten percentage points and has been in a state of crisis over the so-called Ibiza affair. A coalition with the SPÖ (Social Democrats) would also be mathematically possible, or – a novelty – a government with the strengthened Green Party. However, the SPÖ and FPÖ did not interpret their weak election results as a mandate to form a government.

In the election, the ÖVP made significant gains and came in first with around 37 percent of the votes. The SPÖ followed far behind, falling to around 21 percent. While the FPÖ came in significantly weakened at about 16 percent, the Greens received a strong 14 percent of the votes, and the Liberals gathered around 8 percent.

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