Austrian voters began to cast ballots early Sunday in parliamentary elections that is expected to lead to a coalition government between the conservative Austrian People’s Party (OVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPO).
6.4 million people are eligible to vote in the ballot, which opens at 08.00 a.m. local time (0600GMT) and the first results will be available at 05.00 p.m. local time (1500GMT).
The conservative Austrian People’s Party was leading in opinion polls ahead of the vote with 33 percent, while the anti-Islam Freedom Party and the Social Democratic Party (SPO) were fighting for second place.
The most recent poll by the daily newspaper Kurier put support for the current Chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democratic Party at 27 percent compared with 25 percent for the far-right Freedom Party.
Sebastian Kurz, the 31-year-old leader of the conservative Austrian People’s Party, was widely seen as favourite to win the elections and become the country’s youngest ever chancellor.
He has not ruled out a coalition government with the far-right Freedom Party, which adopted an anti-immigrant and especially anti-Muslim rhetoric during the election campaign.
Kurz and his Austrian People’s Party also adopted a harsher tone on issues related to migration and Islam, and he was criticized for drifting into right-wing populism in the hope of attracting far-right voters.—Agencies