Populist parties won Austrian elections

The Freedom Party and the Alliance for the Future of Austria, which espouse strongly racist rhetoric, collectively earned 29 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results. The so-called Freedom Party (FPÖ), led by Heinz-Christian Strache, gained more than 18 per cent of the vote, nearly doubling its share of support – after running a hateful campaign against “foreign criminals” and “asylum cheats” and pledging to take Austria out of the European Union.

The Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ), headed by veteran far-right populist Jörg Haider increased its electoral share from 4 to 11.5 per cent.

A triumphant Haider insisted that both right-wing parties should now work together. “Voters now expect us to do something for Austria. They do not want us steeped in animosity and fighting each other,” he said. Haider broke with the Freedom Party in 2005 after a row and subsequently formed the BZÖ.

The combined vote of both rightist parties equaled that obtained by Austria’s Social Democrats (SPÖ), who picked up around 30 per cent of the vote. The conservative ÖVP came in second at nearly 26 per cent. SPÖ and ÖVP governed Austria for the past two years in a coalition government which broke apart in July.

Commentators in Vienna suggested that the leap in support for the far right would leave the main parties with little option but to try for another grand coalition. SPÖ leader Werner Faymann repeated his opposition to co-operating with the far right parties. As the leader of the strongest party, Faymann is expected to be asked by Austrian president Heinz Fischer to form a new government, succeeding the current federal chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer (SPÖ).

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