VIENNA (Reuters) - No party is likely to obtain a majority of votes in Austria’s parliamentary election on Oct. 15.
A coalition between two of the three biggest parties — the conservative People’s Party (OVP), the Social Democrats (SPO) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) — will probably be needed to govern.
Below is a breakdown of polling, positions and comments the parties have made about potential coalitions.
Since 31-year-old Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz took over as leader of the OVP in May, his party has consistently attracted support in polls of around 33 percent on a platform dominated by tough rhetoric on immigration.
That has dislodged the Freedom Party from the top position in polls it reached in the aftermath of the refugee influx of 2015 and 2016.
The Freedom Party is competing with Chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democrats for second place, both at around a quarter of votes in most polls.
Polls put the Greens, the liberal Neos and a new party founded by former Greens lawmaker Peter Pilz all on around 5 percent of the vote, above the 4-percent threshold for entering parliament.
OVP leader Kurz called an end to the centrist coalition with the Social Democrats, triggering a snap parliamentary election.
He has not ruled out any party as a potential coalition partner and has said he will hold talks with “all parties” if his party comes first.
Kurz has avoided setting conditions before the vote apart from saying that any potential partner must be pro-European and not merely “stand by Europe, but also have the desire to shape Europe”.
His plans on cutting immigration, reducing the corporation tax burden and streamlining the EU overlap with the Freedom Party’s.
The OVP wants a slimmer EU that focuses on its “core competences” such as trade and securing its external borders.
In contrast to the FPO, however, Kurz is in favor of more European defense cooperation, which he says would not threaten Austria’s neutrality.
The FPO says it would only go into a coalition if it were given control of the Interior Ministry. It also would like to secure the post of foreign minister, but has not made that a fixed condition.
FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache has said the FPO will not enter a coalition with the SPO until a full SPO party conference has lifted the ban on coalitions with his party. The decision to lift the ban was taken by the SPO party leadership.
The FPO has also said it would only enter a coalition that results in more referendums or “direct democracy”, which is part of the OVP program. Strache has rowed back from the FPO’s former stark euroskepticism, but he has called the idea of a “European army” a red line.
He says Austria is “at the heart of Europe” but also wants a referendum on Austria’s future in the EU if it hands more powers to Brussels or if Turkey accedes to the bloc.
Strache has also ruled out that the FPO will sign up to a coalition headed by the third-placed party if it comes second, as it did in 2000 when it became a junior partner to the OVP.
Under Chancellor Christian Kern, the SPO has lifted self-imposed ban on national coalitions with the Freedom Party (the two parties already govern together in Burgenland, one of Austria’s nine provinces).
The ban was replaced by a “values compass”, which makes principles such as a pro-European position and gender equality pre-conditions for cooperation.
Kern has also said the FPO must leave the far-right faction in the European Parliament, which France’s National Front is also part of, if it wants to join a coalition with the Social Democrats.
In a recent debate with Strache, Kern said the two parties are still “worlds apart”.
The Social Democrats favor closer European integration on issues like economic and monetary union and social policy.
Reporting by Shadia Nasralla and Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Francois Murphy and Alison Williams