Austrian conservatives won most seats in snap elections on Sunday, putting their leader Sebastian Kurz on track to retake power but forcing him into tough coalition negotiations after a corruption scandal sent his far-right former allies tumbling.
Kurz’s People’s Party came first at 37.1 percent, well ahead of the Social Democrats on 22.6 percent, the far-right Freedom Party on 16.7 percent, the Greens on 13 percent, and the liberal Neos 7.8 percent, a projection by ARGE Wahlen for Austrian news agency APA showed soon after polls closed at 5pm (15:00 GMT).
A projection by pollster SORA for broadcaster ORF with a 1.8 percentage point margin of error showed similar results.
The vote follows the collapse in May of Kurz’s coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) after a video sting operation that forced Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the FPO to step down.
Sebastian Kurz, 33, has emerged largely unscathed from the scandal, even gaining voters from the FPO whose support has slipped to roughly one-fifth of the electorate from just over a quarter in the last vote in 2017.
On the left, there has been some shift in support from the Social Democrats to the resurgent Greens.
The Greens leader said his party would only consider governing with Kurz if there was a “radical change” of direction compared to his previous coalition with the far-right.
“There must be a radical change from the policies,” Werner Kogler told Austrian television. “We need a sign of an about-turn”.
It could take time for the Greens and Kurz to convince their supporters about working with each other.
Many Greens voters see Kurz as their enemy since he brought the far right to power. Many of Kurz’s core voters, such as farmers and big business, are wary of the left-wing Greens.
The Freedom Party said it was “preparing for opposition” after the scandal-hit party dropped 10 percent in snap elections Sunday.
FPOe leader Norbert Hofer told Austria media he believed the result meant the party would not take part in coalition talks, adding: “That means we are preparing for opposition.”