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Austria expected to elect youngest European Union leader in snap election

Austria expected to elect youngest European Union leader in snap election

Austrian voters gave conservative Sebastian Kurz a mandate to form a new government in an election on Sunday, setting up a potential coalition with the nationalist Freedom Party, according to projections based on partial returns.

With over a half of the total ballots counted, Sebastian Kurz's party has taken a lead in the election with over 30 percent of votes cast.

The left-leaning Social Democrats, led by current Chancellor Christian Kern, appear to be vying for second place with the far-right Freedom Party after their campaign was dogged by a smear campaign scandal.

A result in line with the party's best, the near-27 percent of the vote it received in 1999 under former leader, the late Jorg Haider, would be a "pleasant surprise", he said.

Although the Social Democrats have come either first or second in elections since World War II, voters are now more receptive to calls for tougher migration rules than the party's focus on social justice.

But he avoids the inflammatory rhetoric of the Freedom Party and its head, Heinz-Christian Strache. The party is keen on shedding its past links to anti-Semitism, but continues to attract a small neo-Nazi fringe.

Among the greatest losers were Austria's Greens, with projections showing the party short of the 4 percent support needed to make it into parliament. While no expects a repeat of the European Union sanctions slapped on Austria because of the party's participation, critics of the Freedom Party in and outside Austria have expressed alarm at any government role for the euroskeptic party. But less than a dozen parties have a chance of getting seats.

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