Far-right parties make significant gains in Austria

Austria’s far-right parties made huge gains in weekend parliamentary elections, according to preliminary results, while the Social Democrats took the most votes but saw their worst results in decades.

Interior Minister Maria Fekter said the centre-left Social Democrats had 29.71% of the vote, followed by the conservative People’s Party with 25.61%. The two parties had been part of a so-called grand coalition that fell apart in July, triggering the early election.

For both parties, the results were the worst they’ve seen since the end of World War II, political commentator Peter Filzmaier said.

The election’s biggest winners were the far-right parties, whose performance together was close to the count for the Social Democrats.

The Freedom Party received 18.01 % of the vote, while the Alliance for the Future of Austria had 10.98 %, preliminary results indicated.

The right-wing parties had not been expected to consider joining forces, given a past of frequent squabbling. However, Alliance leader Jorg Haider said it was something worth thinking about. And Freedom Party chief Heinz-Christian Strache suggested he was interested in becoming chancellor.

“Today, we are the winners of election night,” Mr Strache said.

A total of 183 parliamentary seats were up for grabs. If the preliminary results are confirmed, Mr Strache’s Freedom Party will have won 35 – compared with 21 won in 2006 elections – while the Alliance will have 21 seats, up from seven.

The Social Democrats, however, looked likely to lose 10 of their seats to have 58 in the new parliament, while the People’s Party would drop from having 66 to 50 seats. The Greens also lost ground, winning 19 seats compared with 21 previously after winning 9.79% of yesterday’s vote, according to preliminary results.

The results did not yet include absentee ballots or those turned in at polling stations outside the voter’s home district. A final tally is not expected before October 6.


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