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Ten things to know about Sunday's snap general election in Austria

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Ten things to know about Sunday's snap general election in Austria
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Johannes Pleschberger
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Some call it the biggest political scandal Austria has ever seen: Sebastian Kurz being ousted as the country's chancellor after he was filmed in Ibiza suggesting he could offer lucrative public contracts in exchange for campaign support.

But, four months on since Kurz became the first chancellor in Austria's modern history to be removed by a no-confidence vote in parliament, the scandal is no longer the central topic.

Instead, party donations and — for the first time to this extent — climate change have been dominating the election campaigns so far.

Euronews has summarised the ten most important points:

1. Bad timing

The election campaigns have been very inconsistent so far, political advisor and PR expert Stefan Sengl told Euronews.

"It all started very hectically and conflict-ridden with the Ibiza affair and the dismissal of Sebastian Kurz’ government. Then the election campaigns pretty much fell into sleep during the Austrian summer holidays."

The competing parties had no choice but to wait for September.

2. Another television debate

After the quiet summer months, a "constant firework of countless television debates followed, where some candidates probably saw each other more often than their partners," said Sengl.

The Austrian press agency APA analysed the numerous TV debates on the channels ORF, ATV, Puls4 and ServusTV in order to draw up a list of the most discussed topics.

3. It's expensive to run an election campaign

With over 72 minutes of attributable speaking time, party financing was clearly the most discussed topic on Austrian television. However, it was less about the Ibiza video, which interestingly had hardly been a big issue in the last few weeks, but rather about new revelations concerning donations and favours.

According to Sengl, this debate was mainly triggered by large donations to Kurz' People's Party “ÖVP” and its election cost overrun.

4. Politicians' expenses

But it's not just large donations to political parties; alleged excessive expense claims from politicians have also caused a stir.

The public prosecutor's office had recently confirmed that the former head of the Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, was being investigated for fraud.

The suspicion: for several years Strache's private expenses had been paid with the help of receipts of the Freedom Party.

5. The Identitarians are involved as well

A few days ago, the daily newspaper "Österreich" alleged the head of the cabinet of former Interior Minister Herbert Kickl (Freedom Party) had been in intensive contact with the head of the right-wing extremist Identitarian Movement. The newspaper quoted from an unpublished report by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Fight against Terrorism.

6. There is also climate change

Sengl is convinced that for the first time in an Austrian election campaign, climate change has played a greater role. The APA agrees with him: environmental policy was the second most discussed topic with 68 minutes. CO2 tax, transport and meat consumption were discussed intensively. All top candidates gave the climate issue a lot of room in their arguments.

Sengl, however, has the impression "that this topic is moving into the background again, perhaps due to the fact that temperatures have become somewhat more autumnal in the meantime".

7. Politicians' reputations have not been enhanced

In the course of the election campaign, some smaller and some bigger corruption scandals came to light.

"With all that noise from the numerous TV confrontations, however, these scandals were hardly dealt with objectively and thoroughly. All in all, the overall picture is not very nice and, as a result, the reputation of the politicians is not likely to have improved," he said.

8. Kurz is leading in the polls

An intense election campaign for some, an already lost battle for others. Kurz has been leading the polls for months with a lead of 10 to 15%.

Few people doubt that he will become chancellor again. And without a real chancellor duel, according to experts, the election campaign was quite uneventful.

9. It could be deja vu for Austrians

The third most discussed topic during the TV confrontations were the parties' coalition preferences.

According to experts, the following three scenarios are most likely to be realised: a relaunch of Sebastian Kurz' last government with the Freedom Party, a three-party experiment between Kurz, Greens and Liberals or a coalition between Kurz and the Social Democrats.

10. Observers fear turnout will be lower

September 29th is the day. Austria elects a new national council and thus also the next federal chancellor.

But precisely because everybody is certain that Kurz will win without having real competition, observers fear that the voter turnout in this election will decline.

We will see on Sunday whether all the expert opinions and polls are correct. First projections will be available shortly after 5 pm.