The centre-right People’s Party (ÖVP) of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is on course for gains in the European elections, with the far-right Freedom Party coming third, according to a media forecast published on Sunday (26 May).
The predictions, based on opinion polls and partial early results, gave the ÖVP 34.9% of the vote overall, up almost eight points on the last such vote in 2014 and a record for any Austrian party since the country joined the European Union in 1995.
A jubilant Kurz hailed the results in front of supporters on Sunday night, saying: “I’m not often lost for words, but today I’m almost speechless.”
Hit by the “Ibiza-gate” corruption scandal, the far-right FPOe party was in third place, falling from 19.7% to 17.2%.
The main opposition Social Democrats were on 23.4%, down more than half a percentage point on 2014 according to the surveys, which were carried out on behalf of several media outlets.
If the predictions are borne out, the Greens will be slightly down to 14%, and the liberal NEOS party will be up slightly to 8.7%.
In terms of seat changes in the European Parliament, the forecast would see the ÖVP on seven, picking up two, while the FPÖ and the Greens would lose one each, finishing on three and two, respectively.
NEOS would keep their current single seat.
Turnout is projected to be sharply up on 2014, rising from 45.4% to almost 59%.
Final results will be published on Monday once postal votes are counted.
The so-called “Ibiza-gate” corruption scandal engulfed the far-right FPÖ last week, leading Kurz to dissolve his coalition with the party and call early national elections for the autumn.
The scandal forced party leader and then vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache to resign after hidden-camera footage emerged of him offering public contracts in return for campaign help from a fake Russian backer.
The big win in Sunday’s poll will be a fillip for Kurz, who on Monday will face a no-confidence vote in the Austrian parliament.
The FPÖ put a brave face on its results Sunday, with its lead MEP candidate Harald Vilimsky saying it showed “how stable our electoral base is”.
New party leader Norbert Hofer said the party was in a position to make progress before the early national elections in the autumn.