Austria’s Kurz Plans to Start Formal Government Talks Next Month

(Bloomberg) -- Austrian conservative leader Sebastian Kurz will continue exploratory talks with the environmentalist Greens until Nov. 8 and then decide whether the conversation can graduate to formal and exclusive government negotiations.

The Greens, led by Werner Kogler, are now the group with which Kurz engaged the most in the four weeks since the election those two parties won. Despite vast policy differences, overall voters’ support has switched to this coalition as the preferred one. Yet Kurz has resisted limiting himself to a single option.

“The parties are very far apart in terms of policy, so you have to ask yourself how a new form of governing can work between them,” Kurz told reporters in Vienna. “If this can be resolved positively, government talks with the Greens are possible,” he said, adding that both sides are interacting “constructively and professionally.”

Austria’s Kurz Plans to Start Formal Government Talks Next Month

A coalition with the Greens would be an about-face for 33-year-old Kurz, who’s moved his conservative People’s Party to the right and governed with the nationalist Freedom Party for 17 months, before that pact collapsed after a scandal over a sting video shot on the Spanish resort island Ibiza. Seventeen years ago, months of talks between the conservatives and Greens -- led by Alexander Van der Bellen, now Austria’s president -- failed to result in a government.

While Kurz won the elections with 37.5% of the vote, he needs at least one partner to gain a majority in parliament. The Freedom Party pulled out of exploratory talks early, saying their election defeat didn’t give them a mandate to lead the country. Chairman Norbert Hofer later softened that stance and said he may reconsider the decision if Kurz’s other options falter.

The center-left Social Democrats, the other big loser of the election, declared their readiness to govern but are mired in infighting and would have to overcome deep divisions with Kurz’s conservatives. The liberal Neos are also ready to join a government but don’t have enough seats for a majority with Kurz.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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