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Austria's far-right Freedom Party proposes tax cuts if elected

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria’s far-right Freedom Party on Wednesday promised its blue-collar voter base tax cuts, a rise in the minimum wage and a minimum pension if it makes it into government after the Oct. 15 parliamentary election.

Head of Austrian far right Freedom Party (FPO) Heinz-Christian Strache addresses a news conference in Vienna, Austria, May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

The party, launching its economic manifesto, also said it would free businesses from compulsory levies, abolish the minimum corporation tax and stay away from a wealth tax.

Austrians will elect a new national council, a chamber of parliament, a year earlier than scheduled after divisions in the ruling coalition led to a snap election.

The anti-immigrant Freedom Party (FPO) could become kingmaker, three weeks after the Alternative for Germany is expected to become the first far-right party to join a German parliament in decades.

Observers say a new coalition between the centre-left Social Democrats (SPO) and the centre-right People’s Party, in power since 2006, is unlikely after they failed to agree on reforms to target job creation, investment and a fairer tax system.

“We will secure fairness for key players (in our society) and families,” said FPO party leader Heinz Christian Strache. “Commitment needs to be rewarded and must no longer be punished by an excessive bureaucratic regime.”

The FPO had led in opinion polls for more than a year, but when Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz took the helm of the People’s Party in May the conservatives leapt into first place.

Kurz has taken a tough line on immigration and has also called for significant tax cuts.

The SPO, meanwhile, has lost ground over its support for a possible coalition with the far-right and its non-market focused policies.

Opinion polls put the Social Democrats and the Freedom Party neck-and-neck on just below 25 percent. The People’s Party is scoring above 30 percent.

Strache said he would launch a 12-billion-euro ($14-billion) tax reduction program within the first 100 days of a new government, with funding coming from cuts to social benefits, especially for migrants and foreigners.

The party wants to exclude asylum seekers from minimum welfare benefits and reform child benefits for employees who work in Austria but have children in other EU countries.

The FPO is budgeting for billions of euros of additional income from a reform to the healthcare system and the taxation of international enterprises.

Strache proposed a minimum pension of “more than 1,000 euros for everyone who has worked for more than 40 years.”

Norbert Hofer, the narrowly defeated FPO candidate for president last year, said: “Government negotiations will not be easy for the Social Democrats or the People’s Party. We know what we want and we will not join the government at all costs.”

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Janet Lawrence