Austria’s conservative People’s Party and the far-right, anti-immigration Freedom Party have agreed a coalition deal that will see Sebastian Kurz become the world’s youngest leader.
The election campaign was dominated by migration crisis affecting Europe, something the anti-immigration Freedom Party has long campaigned about.
Mr Kurz appealed to conservative and right-wing voters with pledges to shut down migrant routes to Europe, cap benefit payments to refugees, and bar immigrants from receiving benefits until they have lived in Austria for five years.
Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache and head of the People’s Party Sebastian Kurz shake hands following their deal for form a coalition government
The election campaign was dominated by Europe’s migration crisis with Strache saying voters had expressed their concern about security
Kurz, 31, foreign minister in the outgoing government, said: ‘We are happy that we have reached this agreement. We will inform the president about our programme and our team.’
Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache, 48, who is set to become deputy chancellor, told the same press conference: ‘Voters gave us a clear mandate to take into account their concerns, particularly when it comes their security.’
The People’s Party came first in the October 15 vote with 31.5 percent after Kurz, nicknamed ‘wunderwuzzi’ (‘whizz-kid’), rebranded the staid party as his own personal ‘movement’, promising to get tough on immigration and lower taxes.
The Freedom Party came third with 26 percent of the vote, double the stunning 13 percent notched by Alternative for Germany (AfD) in elections the month before.
It has a partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ruling party, wants EU sanctions on Moscow lifted and says Islam is not part of Austria.
Former foreign minister Kurz now becomes the world’s youngest leader at the age of 31
The last time the Freedom Party joined the government, Austria was ostracised in the European Union
Both parties ran on promises of cutting benefits for all foreigners, even from the rest of the EU, slashing bureaucracy and stopping the European Union having too much say in national affairs.
They stoked concerns about newcomers following a record influx of migrants in 2015 and fatigue with the previous unhappy ‘grand coalition’ of the People’s Party with the centre-left Social Democrats.
Further details on the new coalition’s plans were expected Saturday once the two parties approve the agreement. The government will be sworn in next week.
One notable measure to have emerged so far from the coalition talks is a pledge to scrap a law that would have banned smoking from all bars and restaurants from May 2018.
The parties are also said to have agreed on cutting tax and other salary charges and loosening labour laws, while the Freedom Party lso wants more ‘direct democracy’.
The last time the Freedom party entered government, in 2000 under controversial then-leader Joerg Haider, now dead, Austria was briefly ostracised within the European Union.
This time though the reaction is likely to be much more muted with the party seen as having mellowed and with Europe more inured to right-wing parties.
Several different groups including the anti-fascist ‘Offensive against the Right’ have said they plan to stage demonstrations on Monday in Vienna.