Austria's political parties have agreed to hold early parliamentary
elections September 28, after the collapse of the coalition between the
ruling Social Democrats and the conservative People's Party. Stefan
Bos reports for VOA that the Social Democrats have ruled out
cooperation with an increasingly popular far-right party.
hosts of Austria's main television news program announced the sudden
collapse of the coalition-government, which has been in power since
January last year.
Austria's conservative People's Party
declared it could no longer work with the Social Democrats of
Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer.
People's Party leader Wilhelm
Molterer said early elections in September would bring more stability
and are important for the alpine nation's future.
gentleman, enough is enough," says party chief Molterer. "Good work in
this government is no longer possible. The Social Democrats walked
away from the basis of our government agreement..." And he adds: "We
need new elections, because that is what Austria needs."
two major parties have been in a "grand coalition" since January
2007. But they never really liked each other and quarreled over
everything from health care, taxes, pensions and schools, to the role
of Austria within the European Union.
After the Social Democrats
called for a referendum on future changes to E.U. treaties, the
conservatives decided to leave the coalition. Their decision shortened
the political career of Austrian Chancellor Gusenbauer, who has been
struggling to overcome the People's Party's increasing popularity.
Accused of poor leadership and apparently unpopular within his party, Mr. Gusenbauer said he would not seek re-election.
says the party leadership has agreed with his proposal that acting
party chairman Werner Faymann lead the party. In his words: "This is
the best way to show in which direction we are going."
acting party chairman Faymann has made clear his party will not walk
towards the far-right Freedom Party, due to its calls for expelling
large numbers of immigrants and its hostility to Islam and to E.U.
He says: "I have always said that I can not imagine
to be even one day in a coalition with the Freedom Party, the FPO."
Faymann adds he does not want to make compromise in this area, even if
that could cost votes.
But analysts say that the Freedom Party
support has surged to around 20 percent in latest polls and that it
could become a major political force. Austria's Parliamentary parties
agreed Tuesday to hold the early ballot September 28, and the date is
set to be formally approved by parliament on Wednesday
current political troubles in Austria are being closely monitored by
the business community. Should the conservatives win the next
election, as polls now suggest, analysts say Austria is likely to
resume privatization's of state-owned firms, including Telekom Austria
and Austrian Airlines.
The tensions come at a difficult time
for banks: This week a court in Vienna gave jail sentences to nine
people over Austria's biggest ever banking scandal. The group,
including the former chief executive of the BAWAG bank, was found
guilty of causing losses of nearly $2.7 billion through speculative investments schemes in the 1990s.