Austrian far right surges to 30% of vote

 

The far right surged to almost a third of the vote in Austria's parliamentary election today, complicating prospects for the biggest mainstream party, the Social Democrats, to forge a stable coalition government.

Initial projections put the Social Democrats at 30 per cent and the Peoples Party at 25 per cent, down from 35 and 34 per cent respectively in 2006.

It was the worst result for both since World War Two.

Heinz-Christian Strache's far right Freedom Party was on target for 18 per cent, compared with 11 per cent two years ago, and Joerg Haider's right-wing populist Alliance for Austria's Future was on 11 per cent, almost tripling its showing in 2006.

The two parties were once one, before an acrimonious split in 2005. A big question now is whether the two might cooperate to bolster the right's case for a share of power.

The right's record showing heralded political instability in the affluent Alpine republic since the two main centrist parties will be hard put to re-establish a broad coalition even if they resolve the feuds that killed off their last alliance.

"Terrible," political analyst Anton Pelinka said of prospects for stable government in the near future.

"The strength of the far-right parties will make formation of a coalition incredibly difficult if you don't bring either into government," he told Reuters. Social Democrats have ruled out an alliance with the right over its anti-foreigner stances.

A roar filled the air in Freedom's election tent in Vienna when the results flashed on a screen, with the crowd - mainly young and middle-aged men drinking beer - punching the air and shouting "bravo".

"The Social Democrats and Peoples Party have been punished and rejected. And the Social Democrats will have to make clear why they are not at least ready to go into talks about other coalitions," said Strache, a former dental technician.

By clinging to their status as Austria's largest single party, the centre-left Social Democrats are expected to be asked by President Heinz Fischer to form the next government.

The environmentalist Greens were seen slipping to 10 per cent from 11 per cent, according to the early projections by Austrian state broadcaster ORF and national news agency APA.

Reuters