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Europe

Austrian Government Headed for Early Elections

Austrians will likely go to the polls in September after a leadership crisis brought an end to a partnership between Social Democrats and the conservative People's Party.

Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer

Alfred Gusenbauer will not try for re-election

The government of Austria's Social Democratic Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer is coming to an end after the conservative People's Party called for early elections on Monday, July 7.

According to sources within the Social Democratic Party, Gusenbauer told the party leadership on Monday that he would not run for chancellor in the upcoming vote. He proposed current party leader and Transport Minister Werner Faymann as the new top candidate, Austrian media reported.

Vice Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer, the leader of the People's Party, said the Social Democrats' current leadership crisis had led the cabinet into a "dead end" and elections by September were the only way out.

Gusenbauer unpopular

Indirectly, he also alluded to his party's anger over a recent change in EU policy by Gusenbauer.

In mid-June, Gusenbauer effectively stepped down as head of the Social Democratic Party amid low approval ratings. He appointed Werner Faymann as interim party chief until his formal election in autumn.

"The Austrian Social Democratic Party is without leadership and is not able to take on a leadership role in federal government," Molterer said.

Lingering anger over EU treaty comments

Gusenbauer and Faymann enraged their junior coalition partner when they announced their intention to hold popular votes on future EU treaties in a letter to Austria's biggest newspaper in late June without informing the conservatives.

Molterer said that the Social Democrats had left the common ground of the coalition agreement and called for a "European perspective for our country."

The Green Party and the right-wing Freedom Party have announced they would support the conservatives in a parliamentary decision on early elections, thus guaranteeing a majority.

The Social Democrats are expected to issue a formal response Monday afternoon.

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