Tight finish in general election expected today
Austria’s 6.4 million voters have started voting in a tight general election which has seen the two traditional heavyweights trickle support to newcomers.
Chancellor Werner Faymann’s centre-left Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) is standing on around 27% of the vote, down on their 29.26% in the 2008 election and a long way away from the days when they managed more than 40% of the vote. Their traditional rivals and current ‘grand coalition’ partners, the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) is on 23% in the opinion polls, down from 25.98% in 2008.
The two parties may well find themselves struggling to form a coalition which could include a third party. Neither party is likely to want to form a coalition with the two right wing to far right parties; the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) on 21% up from 17.54% in 2008, or the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ), although polls suggest that the BZÖ won’t make it across the 4% threshold.
That leaves two newcomers, Team Stronach, a new centre-right party launched in September 2012 or the New Austria Party (NEOS) a liberal party which was formed in October 2012. Team Stronach are on 6% of the vote and are unlikely coalition partners. The NEOS are on 4% according to the latest opinion polls and could be acceptable partners. Nor should the Greens be ruled out as potential coalition partners.
The current composition of the 183 seat National Council is as follows:
Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) – 56 seats – centre-left
Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) – 51 seats – centre-right
Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) – 34 seats – right wing to far right
Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) – 13 seats – right wing
The Greens – The Green Alternative – 20 seats – centre-left
Team Stronach – a new centre-right party launched in September 2012 with six seats
A functioning coalition will need to hold more than 92 seats in the new parliament. Austria has launched the use of postal voting in recent years and 10% of the population have signed up for postal votes. By Friday 85% of postal voters had voted.
Polling stations are open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time.