Monday, October 02, 2006

Austria's electoral uncertainty

The BBC reports:

Austria's opposition Social Democrats have won a surprise election victory, defeating Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel's People's Party.

With all but absentee ballots counted, the centre-left Social Democrats won 35.7% of the vote, narrowly beating the the People's Party at 34.2%.

But what now? A "grand coalition" of the Social Democratic Party and the People's Party, akin to the grand coalition currently governing Germany, is a possibility -- it seems to be "an option preferred by many Austrians," and it is the only two-party coalition possible given the results of the vote. (Austria uses a List-Proportional Representation electoral system for federal partliamentary elections. In simple terms, this means that seats in the National Council are allocated to parties in proportion to their shares of the popular vote.)

The People's Party could prefer to form a coalition with the two right-wing parties, the Freedom Party (11.2%) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (4.2%). Since the last election, the People's Party has governed in coalition ("a controversial alliance") with the Freedom Party, but that party's leader, the notorious Joerg Haider, broke away to found the Alliance last year. Also, the Social Democrats could presumably try to govern with the Greens (10.4%).

So far, according to the BBC, "Austria's leading politicians are refusing to commit themselves". "Coalition negotiations are likely to be time-consuming and difficult".

For more on Austria's 2006 election, including updated results, see Wikipedia.

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