Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz tasked with forming government

October 20, 2017 6:10 pm

Austrian Foreign Minister and Chairman of the Austrian People’s Party (OeVP) Sebastian Kurz delivers a statement after meeting the Austrian president at the Presidential Chancellery, in Vienna, on October 17, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Austria’s president on Friday tasked election-winner Sebastian Kurz with forming a government, putting the 31-year-old conservative on course to become the world’s youngest leader.
Kurz, nicknamed “wunderwuzzi” (“whizz-kid”), is to form a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), potentially giving the European Union a fresh headache.
“I want a new political culture, a new political style,” Kurz said Friday after being mandated by President Alexander Van der Bellen to form a government.
“I want a government that has the courage and the determination to bring about real change in Austria,” Kurz said.
Kurz’s People’s Party (OeVP) came first in Sunday’s election with 31.5 percent followed by the center-left Social Democrats on 26.9 percent, final results showed late Thursday.
The populist Freedom Party, highly critical of the EU, came a close third with 26.0 percent, just short of its 1999 record under former chief Joerg Haider of 26.9 percent.
Kurz said on Friday he will now “sound out” all the other parties in the coming days before entering formal coalition negotiations.
But after an election that saw a shift to the right, Kurz and FPOe chief Heinz-Christian Strache see eye to eye on a host of issues including immigration and cutting taxes.
Strache hosted Kurz for dinner at his home on Wednesday and a meeting of the OeVP’s top brass saw all participants except one back a tie-up with the FPOe, the Kurier daily reported.
Kurz could instead try for another “grand coalition” with the SPOe of incumbent Chancellor Christian Kern, 51, but the outgoing tie-up was so acrimonious this is seen unlikely.
An even more remote possibility is an alliance between the SPOe and the FPOe.
On Wednesday, Strache said that one condition for forming a coalition was the FPOe getting the interior ministry.
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