Austria's right-wing parties could form coalition

VIENNA Sun Nov 18, 2012 11:41am EST

Austrian Freedom Party leader Heinz Christian Strache listens during an extraordinary session on corruption of the Parliament in Vienna November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Austrian Freedom Party leader Heinz Christian Strache listens during an extraordinary session on corruption of the Parliament in Vienna November 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Leonhard Foeger

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VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria's three strongest right-wing parties could form a coalition government after an election next year, the leader of the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) told Oesterreich newspaper.

Austria is currently governed by a grand coalition led by the Social Democrats (SPO) with the conservative People's Party (OVP) as the junior party, but the coalition has been falling out of favor as euroscepticism gains ground.

According to Oesterreich's latest opinion poll, the two parties together have 51 percent of the popular vote, after falling below 50 percent in recent months.

But the OVP, FPO and the new Team Stronach, led by Austro-Canadian industrial magnate Frank Stronach, would together have 55 percent today, according to Oesterreich.

Asked by Oesterreich whether he would consider such a move, FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache - who wants to halve Austria's 2.7 billion euro ($3.4 billion) contribution to the European Union budget - said he would not rule it out.

"Our declared goal is to win the most votes. This is the only way we can send this unholy red-black-green coalition and the EU sects home," he said in an interview published on Sunday.

He was referring to the national picture and the situation in Vienna, which is run by a coalition of the SPO and the Greens.

"In this case, I say to you very openly: I would not exclude any party, including that of Frank Stronach," Strache said.

The FPO and OVP governed Austria together from 2000 until 2005, after the FPO scored its best electoral vote of 27 percent under the leadership of the late Joerg Haider.

The European Union briefly imposed sanctions on Austria as a result, saying that the coalition was legitimizing the extreme right in Europe, but lifted them when it judged that they may be counterproductive by encouraging anti-EU feeling.

Stronach, who last week quit the board of Magna International, the auto parts company he founded, last week gained his first seats in parliament after five right-wing lawmakers defected to his eurosceptic party.

Asked by Oesterreich whether he would consider a coalition with the OVP and the FPO, Stronach said: "We will agree to all suggestions in so far as they accord with our values."

Austria's next election has to be held by September, but could be called earlier.

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(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Alison Williams)

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