Austria’s 33-year-old former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his People’s Party have come out on top in elections Sunday. First projections show the center-right conservatives taking 38.4% of the vote.
And this despite a scandal that engulfed his previous far-right allies and a no-confidence vote against him earlier this year.
CGTN’s Natalie Carney has more from Vienna.
Sebastian Kurz is poised to again be the chancellor of Austria by a comfortable margin, based on preliminary results.
Speaking after they were released, Kurz said: “We are very thankful and more than happy. The results are better than we expected. It’s a big responsibility and we will pay tribute to that. We exceeded our election target. I am speechless and I have to digest these results.”
The 33-year-old made a comeback after losing a vote of confidence in parliament in May.
His coalition government with the far-right Freedom Party was rocked after a number of race rows and corruption scandals, which clearly hurt that party, down sharply from its 26% in 2017.
The party’s new head Norbert Hofer says another coalition with Kurz’s right of center People’s Party or OVP would be ‘very unlikely’.
He adds, “I believe that the election results are not mandated to carry on progressive governmental negotiation now. We are preparing for the opposition of the government, even if it will be very, very difficult and lengthy government negotiations.”
Other results show gains for the left of center Social Democrats, the Neos and the Greens who claimed enough of the vote to make it back into parliament as climate change and issues of the environment dominated voter concerns.
Voter Renate Forte tells CGTN, “The issue of the climate we really need to take into consideration. We have to find good solutions for the refugees, that we are helping them from the countries they come from. There are a lot of issues.”
While voter Lucas Puplic says, “The last government not so good. I would like to see the Neos in the government but I fear that is not going to happen.”
This is a telling time for a country that’s experimented with right-wing populist rule. As voter Ulrich Koning shares with CGTN, “Maybe something like OVP, Neos, Greens could get the majority, so I would like to see the populists not in the next government.”
Sebastian Kurz may again become the youngest head of state, but it won’t be without hard work. Experts forecast party negotiations could take weeks if not months.
With Kurz at its helm, Austria became the first country in Western Europe with a far-right party in its government. Now with him at the helm again, some are asking if Austria could become one the first countries with Greens to make it into government.