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Far-right surge upsets Austria's political balance

Far-right surge upsets Austria's political balance
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The far-right is once again a force to be reckoned with in Austria. The almost 30 percent of the vote secured by the bloc in last night’s election is likely to make the task of forming a new coalition extremely difficult.

Heinze-Christian Strache’s Freedom Party’s won 18 percent, up from 11 percent two years ago, while Joerg Haider’s Alliance for Austria’s Future, or BZO, took 11 percent, almost tripling its vote haul in 2006.

They were once one party, before an acrimonious split in 2005. It is still unclear if the two might cooperate to bolster the far-right’s case for a share of power.

The Social Democrats topped the poll, a few percentage points ahead of the conservative People’s Party. But both the main parties were down on the previous election, recording their worst showing since World War II.

The Social Democrats have ruled out forming a coalition with the far-right and are reluctant to deal with the People’s Party, whose decision to withdraw from government sparked this election.

Social Democrat leader Walter Faymann said: “I still say ‘no’ to a coalition with either the BZö or the Freedom Party, but I’ve always said I wish to have a stable government in order to show citizens that we need a large base if we are to guarantee opportunities for young people, security for elderly people and if we want to succeed in this country and move forward.”

Some analysts say the outcome may make it difficult for the conservatives to resist the temptation to form a partnership with the far- right, if the Social Democrats’ fail in their efforts at building a coalition.

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