Austrian Vote Favors Return of Pro-Europe Government

Nicole Lundeed and Matthew Karnitschnig, Wall Street Journal, September 29, 2013

Austria’s ruling pro-European parties led elections Sunday, signaling the likely renewal of the current government, despite a strong showing by far-right populists.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann’s Social Democrats finished first in the ballot, with 27.1%, followed by the center-right People’s Party with 23.8%. Both parties suffered slight losses compared with the last election in 2008.

Still, the two parties, which currently govern in a so-called grand coalition, have enough support to form a new government.

The result will be welcomed in Brussels, where European Union officials have been increasingly unnerved by the success of anti-European parties in the region.

The Freedom Party, a populist, anti-immigrant party that rose to prominence under deceased leader Jörg Haider, finished third with 21.4%, nearly overtaking the People’s Party.

Many Austrians were worried that the Freedom Party, which campaigned against euro-zone bailouts and welfare for immigrants, would record an even stronger result. The populist vote was divided after the entry of a new party led by billionaire Frank Stronach.

Mr Stronach, 81 years old, emigrated to Canada as a young man and built an auto-parts empire. His company, Magna International Inc. is one of the world’s leading suppliers to the auto industry.

Team Stronach, founded in 2012, campaigned on an antiestablishment platform that included a proposal to exit the euro. It won 5.8%, less than expected.

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In total, nine parties were vying for 183 seats in parliament. Final official results, which include absentee ballots, will be available later this week.

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