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Austria: Sebastian Kurz Wins Elections After ‘Ibiza Scandal’

After the ‘Ibiza Scandal’, which brought down former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’ government coalition in May, he won the Austrian snap elections on Sunday. It looks like Kurz will have several options for forming a new government.

In Austria, Sebastian Kurz’ conservative party ÖVP has won snap elections today. This happened some four and a half months after a major scandal in the radical right-wing party FPÖ had brought down the government coalition. At this stage it looks like the ÖVP can expect 37 percent of today’s vote. It therefore increased its share by 6 percent, compared to the last elections.

SPÖ Weak, Greens Grow

The Social Democrats (SPÖ) got only 22 percent, some 5 percent less than last time, while the Austrian Greens got around 14 percent. The Liberal ‘Neos’ reached more than 7 percent. Finally, the FPÖ slumped to 16 percent after the scandal. They had gotten 26 percent two years ago.

When a secret video recording from the Spanish island of Ibiza was published by German media in May, the scandal broke. In it, the FPÖ’s chairmain Strache talks to a Russian lady who says she was the niece of an oligarch. He promises her public contracts in exchange for her help during the elections. She was supposed to purchase a tabloid newspaper in order to get the FPÖ elected.

The video footage was recorded in 2017, just before the last general elections took place. Once the story broke, Chancellor Kurz ended the coalition saying “Enough is enough”, referring to earlier scandals which had made thing difficult for him before.

Four Options

Because of his good election result, Kurz seems to have the following options for coalitions:

  • He could agree to another coalition with the FPÖ. This seems unlikely, but he has not ruled out this option.
  • He could revive Austria’s grand coalition with the SPÖ.
  • Kurz might talk to the Greens about forming a coalition with them, or a three-way coalition which also includes the ‘Neos’.
  • He could go for a minority government.

After the FPÖ scandal, Kurz, who is only 33 years old, had wanted to remain Chancellor, but Austria’s President Alexander van der Bellen appointed an interim government led by Brigitte Bierlein, a civil servant, after what was left of Kurz’ coalition was overthrown by a no-confidence vote.

Most Austrians believe the consultations and possible coalition talks will take a long time. Until Kurz’s new government is ready to rumble, Brigitte Bierlein will continue to govern Austria.