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People's Party Wins Clear Victory in Austria Election - 2002-11-24


The conservative People's Party of Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel has emerged as the clear victor in the Austrian parliamentary election. The party received about 42 percent of the vote.

The news of the result was greeted with jubilation by People's Party supporters in an improvised tent erected in downtown Vienna.

The Social Democrats, the largest opposition party, won 37 percent of the vote, its smallest percentage since 1966.

The election brought a sensational collapse of support for the far-right Freedom Party, dominated by Jörg Haider. The party plummeted from 27 percent in 1999 elections to about 10 percent this time.

The other party in parliament, the environmentalist Greens, won less than nine-percent of the vote.

Mr. Schüssel called a snap election following the resignations of Freedom Party ministers in the coalition government. The resignations included Finance Minister Karl Heinz Grasser, who changed sides to support the People's Party during the election campaign.

Mr. Haider's actions and statements have been met with increasing hostility in recent months. His trip to meet Saddam Hussein in Iraq in the middle of the campaign was seen as particularly damaging.

The leader of the Greens in Vienna, Christoph Chorherr, told VOA that voter rejection of Jörg Haider, who he said had often made anti-Semitic comments, was an important message to the world.

In the new parliament, the People's Party will have 79 seats, the Social Democrats 69, the Freedom Party 19 seats, and the Greens 16.

Hard coalition negotiations will begin immediately. Experts do not rule out a revival of the centre-right coalition between the People's Party and the Freedom Party.

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