VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz called on Friday for a snap parliamentary election but stopped short of saying he would take over as head of the conservative party in the coalition government and force that move.
Kurz, 30, is widely favored within his People's Party (OVP) to succeed party leader Reinhold Mitterlehner, who said on Wednesday he was stepping down.
Several polls suggest that Kurz's taking over would boost the OVP's support and leapfrog it into first place. Surveys have repeatedly shown the far-right Freedom Party to be the most popular in Austria, closely followed by Chancellor Christian Kern's center-left Social Democrats.
"I personally believe early elections would be the right path," Kurz told a news conference.
The next elections are due by autumn 2018.
Whether a snap election is called is likely to depend on whether Kurz takes on the job of party leader. He said he would do that only if he were given more powers, to avoid the kind of in-fighting that prompted Vice Chancellor Mitterlehner to quit.
"Whoever takes over the leadership must have the possibility to set a party line, and he must above all be able to make staffing decisions," Kurz said, in an apparent reference to the strong influence within the party of figures such as the governors of Austrian provinces.
The party leadership is due to meet on Sunday to decide who should replace Mitterlehner.
Kern, who on Wednesday urged his conservative partners to stay in the government, had no immediate comment.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy and Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Michael Shields)