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Österreich Sebastian Kurz
Image: Reuters/L. Foeger

Austrian chancellor calls for election timing talks

May 15, 2017

Austrian politics have entered an uncertain period. Sebastian Kurz, the new head of the center-right ÖVP, wants a quick vote on snap elections. A later meeting set the date for October 15.


Austria moved closer to snap elections on Monday after Chancellor Christian Kern called for all-party talks to set an election date following a major political shake-up inside his conservative junior coalition partner party.

Sebastian Kurz, the 30-year-old foreign minister (photo) called on Sunday for early elections to be held in the autumn after he was elected to head the center-right People's Party (ÖVP). A SPO 

On Monday, Kurz tweeted that he supported a proposal by Kern's Social Democrats (SPÖ) to hold the election on October 8 or October 15. The date of the poll was agreed as October 15 by all parties at a
meeting on Tuesday.

It capped a heady week in Austrian politics which saw the conservative party leader and Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner resign amid internal squabbling and after months of deadlock in talks with Kern's Social Democrats (SPÖ).

Österreich Bundeskanzler Christian Kern
Kern has called for all-party talks to set an election dateImage: picture-alliance/dpa/L. Niesner

Kern, who admitted on Sunday he could not stop an early election, held a meeting with President Alexander Van der Bellen and spoke to Kurz by phone on Monday. The SPÖ and ÖVP are three seats short of the majority needed to call snap elections.

The Greens and the anti-immigration, populist Freedom Party (FPÖ) said they would support a parliamentary vote to call snap elections but demanded that a parliamentary investigation into a Eurofighter deal from a decade ago be finished. The investigation is expected to be completed in June.

Calculated gamble

Kern has warned that dissolving the coalition would open the way for the FPÖ to win the election. The FPÖ is currently leading in opinion polls, followed by the SPÖ and ÖVP in second and third place, respectively.

The 30-year-old Kurz is a rising star within Austria politics, boosted by his tough stance against immigration. Led by Kurz, who has some similar positions as the FPÖ without the xenophobic rhetoric, the conservatives appear to believe they can outmaneuver their right-wing rivals, who last year came close to taking over the presidency amid voter backlash over immigration.

Some surveys suggest that with Kurz at the helm of the party it can jump ahead of the FPÖ.

One-man show

The ÖVP executive committee granted Kurz unprecedented powers, meeting seven of his demands to take over the party leadership.

The Austrian press dubbed it a "coup" within the party.

Among other things, Kurz will be able to name candidates for parliamentary elections even if they are from outside the party, appoint all ministers in a potential conservative-led government and change the party name for the next election under the name "List Sebastian Kurz- the new People's Party."

Forming a government in Austria usually requires two parties. A SPÖ- ÖVP coalition has ruled Austria for many years in the last decades.

cw/jm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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