- The center-right ÖVP received its best result in history Sunday.
- Right-wing populist FPÖ plummet after corruption scandal.
- Former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, removed from office by a motion of no confidence, is expected to return strengthened.
The Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), led by former Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, has emerged the winner in snap parliamentary elections in Austria Sunday. The conservatives won 38.4% of the vote, up from 31% at the last election in 2017, thoroughly beating the Social Democrats, which only managed 21.5%.
The result confirmed the polls, which pointed to a clear victory for the chancellor, however, his win was far broader than what was earlier anticipated by many of the country’s political analysts. For its part, the right-wing populist Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), which ruled in a coalition with Kurz, plunged 10 percentage points from the 2017 vote, holding only 17.3% of the vote. Its leader, Norbert Hofer, has said he is “preparing for opposition.”
The Greens won 12.4% of the vote, allowing them to return to the National Council. In the 2017 vote, after the resignation of its leader and internal disputes, the environmentalist party had not reached the minimum of 4% of the votes. Lastly, the liberal NEOS gained 7.4%, while the left-wing JETZT list will be left out of the Austrian federal parliament.
Leaving Right-wing Populists Behind
The center-right ÖVP was the main beneficiary of the loss of the right-wing vote, shaken by a corruption scandal that compelled the resignation of its then leader, Heinz-Christian Strache. The former deputy federal chancellor was secretly filmed in 2017 on the tourist island of Ibiza, while offering political favors to a fake Russian millionaire in exchange for illegal donations for his election campaign.
The scandal led to the fall of the ÖVP-FPÖ coalition. The far-right party took revenge by launching a motion of censure that brought down the chancellor and forced early elections. Following Kurz’s defeat in the motion of no confidence, President Alexander Van der Bellen appointed a caretaker government headed by constitutional lawyer Brigitte Bierlein on May 27.
Having served for only 17 months before the motion of no-confidence, Kurz became the shortest-serving Austrian head of government since World War II. Now, however, he will be back at the Federal Chancellery in Vienna, and probably far stronger. At 33, Sebastian Kurz went from being a promise of Austrian politics to becoming the center-right’s main reference in the country. A former secretary of state and former foreign minister, he has run the ÖVP since 2017, when he reorganized the party and secured 31.7% of the vote, the largest electoral result in its history, so far surpassed in the current election by additional percentage points.
The likely new federal chancellor is, at the same time, Austria’s most popular and most hated politician. Celebrated by his constituents as a young star who will modernize the country, Kurz is seen by the opposition as power-hungry and unscrupulous.