Sep 29, 2019

Austria's youngest chancellor wins election months after far-right scandal

Sebastian Kurz.

Sebastian Kurz. Photo: Askin Kiyagan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The center-right Austrian People's Party appears to have won the country's snap election on Sunday after claiming 37% of the vote, according to Politico Europe.

Why it matters: Sebastian Kurz, the head of the Austrian People's Party and the country's youngest-ever chancellor, is expected to win back his job after a cash-for-contracts scandal crippled his government 4 months ago.

By the numbers, per initial exit polls:

  • Austrian People's Party: 37.1%
  • Social Democrats: 21.8%.
  • Freedom Party: 16.0%.
  • Greens: 14.0%.
  • The New Austria and Liberal Forum: 7.8%.

Background: The conservative Austrian People's Party previously had a coalition government with the far-right Freedom Party, until its leader was caught on video attempting to trade public contracts for financial support from a woman purporting to be the niece of a Russian oligarch.

  • After the so-called "Ibiza scandal" broke, the Freedom Party joined the Social Democrats in a no-confidence vote that brought down Kurz as chancellor in May.
  • The Freedom Party has been widely criticized for promoting nationalist rhetoric that vilifies migrants and Muslims.
  • Support for the Freedom Party fell 10% from the last election in 2017.

The big picture: Having failed to win enough seats to govern alone, the Austrian People's Party will now have to form a coalition government. The Freedom Party has reportedly said it will not enter into another alliance with Kurz.

  • Kurz may opt for a government with the Greens and Liberals, though there are deep ideological divides between the parties, especially on immigration policy.

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