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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Kurz invites Freedom Party to join Austrian government

People's Party set for coalition with the far-right who came third in last week's election

Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz and the leader of the Austrian Peoples Party, OEVP, said he will try to form a coalition government with the right-wing Freedom Party after finishing first in this month's election (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz and the leader of the Austrian Peoples Party, OEVP, said he will try to form a coalition government with the right-wing Freedom Party after finishing first in this month's election (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Austrian conservative leader Sebastian Kurz says he will try to form a coalition government with the right-wing Freedom Party after finishing first in this month’s election.

Both Mr Kurz’s People’s Party and the Freedom Party campaigned on the need for tougher immigration controls, quick deportations of asylum-seekers whose requests are denied and a crackdown on radical Islam.

Austria’s president Alexander Van der Bellen tasked Mr Kurz on Friday with forming a government. Mr Kurz said on Tuesday that he will invite the Freedom Party to enter talks on a coalition.

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The Freedom Party, which is led by Heinz-Christian Strache, came third in the election, taking 51 seats – just one less than the Social Democrats – with 26% of the vote. A coalition with the People’s Party will have 113 seats, a comfortable majority in the 183-seat parliament.

It would be the first time since 2006 that they will have participated in government. Last year their candidate for the presidency, Norbert Hofer, won the first round of the election, receiving 35.1% of the vote. He was eventually defeated by Mr Van der Bellen after a second election had to be held due to irregularities.

The 31-year-old Mr Kurz, who is foreign minister in the outgoing government led by the centre-left Social Democrats, is on track to become Europe’s youngest leader.

Mr Kurz said he will try to form a government by Christmas and added that the new administration must have “a clear pro-European direction.”

"Austria can only be strong if we are not just members of the European Union, but also actively help to strengthen the European Union," he said.

Austria will hold the EU's rotating presidency in the second half of next year.

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