Young party leader declares victory in Austria

Though absentee and mail ballots have yet to be counted, the projections suggest that the anti-immigration Freedom Party will return to government in Austria for the first time since 2005 and a decade of Social Democratic rule will end.

While the projections were based on incomplete results, they could herald a coalition between the People's and Freedom parties that would mean a rightward turn for Austria.

"A party which has run on a platform of xenophobic intolerance and the targeting of immigrants must not be granted a seat at the governing table".

The 2015 influx of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the war in Syria and poverty elsewhere into the EU's prosperous heartland left Austria with almost 100,000 new and mostly Muslim migrants. That has fuelled fears Austria's traditional Western culture is in danger.

Mr Van der Bellen must swear in any new government and a strong showing by the Freedom Party and the People's Party would make a ruling coalition between them likely.

One woman said: "Yes I think it is good to control borders, meaning I'm of course pro-migration and that many people can come to us but at some point we have to stop". Social Democratic Chancellor Christian Kern acknowledged as much, saying Sunday's results reflected "a push to the right".

"Today is not the day of triumph over others, but today is our chance for real change in this country", he told cheering supporters.

The People's Party, which has shifted from centrist to right-wing positions, is leading in the pre-vote polls.

Kurz said on Sunday night that he was open to talks with all parties that entered parliament on forming a coalition government.

  • Rogelio Becker