Austrian Ruling Parties Fend Off Euroskeptic Challenge

But the conservatives in the ruling coalition could yet form a government with other parties on the right.

Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann addresses parliament in Vienna, September 25
Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann addresses parliament in Vienna, September 25 (BKA/Andy Wenzel)

Austria’s ruling parties won reelection on Sunday despite a strong showing for Euroskeptic liberal and nationalist parties.

Chancellor Werner Faymann’s Social Democrats, who had campaigned on a platform of defending jobs and pensions got 27.1 percent of the vote, preliminary results showed, down more than two points from 2008. The conservatives shed more than two points to 23.8 percent, giving the two parties a thin majority in parliament for another five years.

Conservative leader Michael Spindelegger, who is also foreign minister, said he was open to continuing the coalition but refused to rule out forming a government with the nationalist Freedom Party as it did between 2000 and 2007. “This result is a wakeup call,” he told ORF television. “We can’t simply go on as before.”

The conservatives and nationalist would be able to find a majority if they are joined by billionaire Frank Stronach’s new Euroskeptic party which got 5.8 percent of the votes.

As Austria struggles to balance its budget — the coalition parties enacted €27 billion in spending cuts and tax increases last year — many voters are dissatisfied with helping finance the bailing out of weaker states in the periphery of the eurozone. Both the nationalists and Stronach’s party advocate leaving the European currency union.

Austria has enjoyed modest yearly economic growth since it joined the euro in 2002. The Alpine nation is the fourth richest in Europe. It is also highly dependent on trade with neighboring Germany.

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