Kurz Drops Nationalist Option for Return as Austrian Chancellor

Boris Groendahl

(Bloomberg) -- Sebastian Kurz narrowed his options to form Austria’s next government, saying he “respects” the nationalist Freedom Party’s decision to withdraw from consideration after an election defeat last month.

The former chancellor, who was tasked by President Alexander Van der Bellen to seek a partner in Austria’s fragmented parliament, will continue deeper talks with the other three parties, which all signaled they are ready to join a coalition in principle, Kurz told the Austrian Press Agency. He didn’t say whether he has a preference.

“The Freedom Party already said clearly that the election result is no mandate to govern,” Kurz was quoted as saying by APA. He will “stay in touch with the other party leaders and continue talks next week.”

Kurz, whose conservative People’s Party got 37.5% of the vote, needs at least one ally to gain a majority in parliament. The Greens, once led by the president, were the biggest winner of the election and a prime contender to team up with Kurz despite deep policy differences on migration and social issues. The two groups failed to form a government 17 years ago after months of talks.

Party leader Werner Kogler underlined his will to govern after his meeting with Kurz on Wednesday. “What I took away from the talks is that we want to and will enter real talks” to find out whether it makes sense to negotiate a government program, he said.

While the chancellor and his cabinet are appointed by the president, they can be dismissed by lawmakers and hence any administration needs to be underpinned by a parliamentary agreement, which could be a formal coalition or backing for a minority government.

Kurz’s alliance with the nationalist Freedom Party collapsed in May after a scandal over a sting video shot on the Spanish resort island Ibiza. Apart from the conservatives and the Greens, the liberal Neos also increased support in the snap Sept. 29 vote, while the nationalists and the Social Democrats lost seats.

To contact the reporter on this story: Boris Groendahl in Vienna at bgroendahl@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Chris Reiter

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