Austrian chancellor calls for wide talks on snap election

Reuters News
Posted: May 15, 2017 7:16 AM

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern called on Monday for talks with all main parties on the possible timing of a snap election, a vote that will be closely watched across Europe with the far-right Freedom Party riding high in opinion polls.

Sebastian Kurz, the new leader of the conservative People's Party (OVP), demanded the vote on Sunday, effectively ending his movement's ruling coalition with Kern's Social Democrats.

Kern, who acknowledged on Sunday he could no nothing to stop a new vote, held a closed-door meeting with President Alexander Van der Bellen and released a statement saying he had also spoken to Kurz by phone.

An early election would give the far-right Freedom Party, currently leading in opinion polls, another chance of entering national government less than a year after its candidate lost a close-fought presidential runoff.

However, some surveys carried out before Kurz took over as head of his party have suggested the OVP would leap from third to first place under his leadership. The 30-year-old has taken a tough stance on immigration.

Kern said he had suggested to Kurz that "we hold talks with all opposition parties on how to handle the (Eurofighter) commission of inquiry and how to handle a proposal for a snap election."

Both the opposition Greens and the Freedom Party have said they will back a snap vote, but only if it is called next month, so as not to interfere with a parliamentary inquiry into Austria's order of Eurofighter jets a decade ago.

Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache told a news conference he wanted a vote from "early October to mid-October".

Calling a snap election requires a majority in parliament. The OVP and the Freedom Party are together three seats short of a majority.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy, Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich and Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Andrew Heavens)