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Austria votes in snap election after video sting scandal

Election posters of Sebastian Kurz's ÖVP party (left) and Pamela Rendi-Wagner SPÖ' party Image copyright EPA
Image caption A coalition between Sebastian Kurz’s conservatives and Pamela Rendi-Wagner’s Social Democrats looks unlikely

Voting has started in Austria’s snap general election, after a video sting scandal in May collapsed the coalition government.

Opinion polls suggest former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservative People’s Party is on track to win the most votes – but will need a coalition partner.

The Social Democrats, the far-right Freedom Party, the Greens and the liberals are also in the race.

Coalition talks are widely expected to be difficult, and may last for weeks.

Polling stations across Austria will open at 07:00 local time (05:00 GMT) and close at 17:00.

What was the video sting scandal?

The scandal toppled Mr Kurz’s government, and the former leader of his coalition partner the Freedom Party (FPÖ), Heinz-Christian Strache.

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Media captionThe so-called “Ibiza-gate” video led to the collapse of Mr Kurz’s coalition

Mr Strache, Austria’s Vice-Chancellor, was caught on video promising government contracts to a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch.

The scandal was labelled “Ibiza-gate”, after the Spanish island where the video was recorded.

What are the options?

The FPÖ, under new leader Norbert Hofer, is hoping to renew the coalition with Mr Kurz, who still leads the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP).

But while Mr Kurz shares a tough anti-migrant line with the FPÖ, the former chancellor may opt for a three-way pact with the Greens and the liberal Neos party – a first in Austria.

A grand coalition with the Social Democrats (SPÖ) is considered unlikely because of the bad relations between Mr Kurz and the centre-left leadership, the BBC’s Bethany Bell in Vienna says.

Who is Sebastian Kurz?

The son of a secretary and a teacher, he became active in the ÖVP at the age of 16. As a law student in Vienna he was elected chairman of the People’s Party youth wing. He quit his studies in 2011 to become a junior interior minister, rising to foreign minister in 2013 at the age of 27.

Two years later he presented a 50-point plan to improve the integration of immigrants. However, he was full of praise for Hungary’s populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and claimed credit for closing the Balkan migrant route in 2016.

Elected chairman in May 2017, he rebranded the party as the Turquoise Movement then served as chancellor from December 2017 to May 2019, when the Ibizagate brought down the coalition.


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