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Snap election nears in Austria: centre-right party appoints new leader

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Snap election nears in Austria: centre-right party appoints new leader

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After a decade in power, the coalition between Austria’s centre-left Social Democratic Party and centre-right People’s Party is on the verge of collapse.

Last Wednesday, People’s Party leader Reinhold Mitterlehner resigned, opening the door for Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz to replace him at a party summit on Sunday. Mr Kurz, just 30 years old, insists that the current coalition is too deeply divided to be salvaged and says that “early elections are the right way”.

Chancellor Christian Kern, who leads the Social Democrats, criticised Kurz’s comments, saying he will forge a new coalition with “minority parties if necessary”.

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But without the support of the People’s Party, Kern must turn to right-wing populists to maintain a parliamentary majority, either in the form of the anti-immigration Freedom Party or the Eurosceptic Team Stronach—an unappetising choice for any progressive leader.

Whether the Social Democrats reform their coalition or early elections are held, there’s now a substantial prospect that the far-right Freedom Party will be included in a future government. The party has led national opinion polls since last June and understandably welcomes Kurz’s call for snap elections.

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