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Europe

Austrian Elections: Social Democrats on Top as Far-Right Gains

Austria's Social Democrats are likely to emerge as the biggest party after early elections despite significant gains by parties on the far-right, according to early official results. Forming a government won't be easy.

Vandalized campaign posters of the leading candidates of Austria's far-right parties

Attacked, but popular: Far-rightists Strache (left) and Haider (right)

Projections after a tally of more than 80 percent of the ballots showed Austria's Social Democratic Party in the lead in the country's parliamentary elections Sunday, but the real winners were two far-right parties which together won 29 percent of the vote.

Faymann (rights) has good chances to succeed current Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer (left)

Faymann (rights) has good chances to succeed current Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer (left)

According to early official results, Social Democratic Party (SPOe) leader Werner Faymann was set to take over the chancellorship by winning 29.7 percent, six percent less than in the last elections in 2006.

The centrist conservative People's Party (OeVP), the SPOe's junior partner in the coalition that ended in July, were projected at 25.6 percent, suffering massive losses of nine percent.

Far-right gains

In contrast to the governing parties' record low results, the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) and Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZOe) won around 18 percent and 11 percent of the ballots respectively.

While the Freedom Party led by Heinz-Christian Strache gained seven percent, Joerg Haider's Alliance more than doubled its votes to 11 percent, from 4 percent in 2006.

The election result showed that Austrians did not want another coalition between Social Democrats and conservatives, Haider said.

SPOe and OeVP are not keen on another round of cooperation, but they might have few other options if they keep their promises not to govern with the far right.

"I cannot imagine a government with BZOe or FPOe," said Social Democratic leader Fayman, who also ruled out a minority government with the support of the extreme right in parliament.

Unwanted coalition

Freedom Party leader Strache said Sunday that the Social Democrats should reconsider its "fetish for exclusion" of other parties.

"The grand coalition is dead," Haider said. "There must be a different solution."

But the Social Democrats' options were unclear as conservative leader Molterer did not rule out an opposition role for his party after this "painful defeat."

The Green party lost around one percent and is projected at 11 percent of the vote.

The official final result will be announced on Oct. 6, when ballots cast abroad and by mail will also be included. These additional votes are not expected to change the result in a significant way.

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