VIENNA (Reuters) - Leaders of Austria’s ruling coalition said on Sunday they had agreed on a package of policy objectives, averting the risk of a government collapse and snap parliamentary election that would likely have played into the hands of the far right.
Talks between senior cabinet members from Chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democrats and the conservative People’s Party (OVP) have lasted for much of the past week, with Kern having initially said that failure to reach a deal could bring about the end of the centrist coalition.
With roughly a year and a half to go until the next parliamentary election must be held, opinion polls regularly show the far-right Freedom Party in first place with roughly a third of voters supporting it, helped by the widely held view that the often bickering coalition government is ineffective.
The new set of policy objectives on issues ranging from security and immigration to employment and education is aimed at breathing new life into the coalition and winning over voters who have abandoned both its parties in recent years.
“We have completed the work, the negotiations. That means we have now achieved a result,” Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner of the conservative OVP told reporters on Sunday night after the talks, declining to provide details of the deal.
The agreement will formally be submitted to both parties’ leaderships on Monday. Both Mitterlehner and Kern head their own parties and are expected to overcome any internal opposition.
“I think it is a good exercise to explain to friends within the party why we believe it (the agreement) is necessary,” Kern told reporters. “It will certainly provoke discussion here or there but I assume that it will meet with the approval of the parties’ organs.”
Reporting by Francois Murphy; editing by Ralph Boulton