Acting Austrian chancellor does not rule out snap election

Reuters News
Posted: May 10, 2016 5:38 AM

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria's acting Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner on Tuesday did not rule out a snap parliamentary election after Werner Faymann quit as head of the government, but said he expected to reach agreement in coalition talks with the Social Democrats.

Faymann resigned as chancellor on Monday, bowing to a revolt inside his Social Democratic Party after it suffered a humiliating defeat to the far right in a first-round vote for the largely ceremonial post of president in April.

Mitterlehner, who heads the conservative People's Party, outlined principles he wanted to be part of any agreement on cooperation with the candidate the Social Democrats' will put forward for chancellor.

These included continuing current immigration policy, he said. Austria took in around 90,000 asylum seekers in 2015 from the Middle East and beyond, more than 1 percent of its population.

The anti-immigration Freedom Party came first in the first ballot for president with 35 percent, reaping political capital from public fears linked to Europe's migration crisis.

"I assume that we have already found a common line and that we will stick to it," Mitterlehner told a news conference after a weekly cabinet meeting.

The principles he listed, however, included proposed changes, such as involving opposition parties on issues like immigration policy. It is not clear whether that was a reference to the Freedom Party.

"We will now wait and see what proposals the partner party will develop and then we will discuss it," he added.

Mitterlehner, whose People's Party is the junior partner in the coalition with the Social Democrats, is temporarily heading the government. The Social Democrats plan to pick a proposed successor to Faymann within a week.

(Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; writing by Francois Murphy; Editing by Kirsti Knolle and Richard Balmforth)