Austria’s Social Democrat’s are celebrating after their surprise victory in the general election. Polls predicted party leader, Alfred Gusenbauer would lose – but he produced a remarkable turnaround to win by a margin of 1.5 percent. His future as party leader hung on the result – so the reversal of fortune was particularly sweet. “I have the feeling today that the result is a victory for universal justice,” he said.
For Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel’s People’s Party, the loss of seven per cent of the vote was a bitter disappointment – Austria has enjoyed a strong economic performance during his six years at the helm, and he had expected a new term. He said he took responsibility for the defeat and added that he had no intention of resigning, saying the party had served the country up until now and would continue do so.
The Greens scored a historic 10.5 percent of the vote – which may prevent the two big parties from seeking to form a coalition with the far-right Freedom party which finished third with 11 percent. In another surprise outcome, the far-right party founded by Joerg Haider, the Alliance for the Future of Austria, seems just to have made it into parliament with 4 percent – despite its split from the Freedom Party last year.