The far-right resurged in local elections in Vienna, the Austrian
capital, securing the biggest gains in votes and mandates following a
campaign laced with anti-Islamic rhetoric.
With only absentee
ballots left to be counted, the anti-immigration Freedom Party won 27%
and 28 seats in the regional parliament - up from 13.
That is a
significant boost from the 14.8% they garnered during 2005 elections,
and near their record high of 27.9%, achieved in 1996, when the late
Joerg Haider was at the party's helm.
"With a hand on my heart, I
am deeply grateful for the confidence the Viennese have given me and I
know what that responsibility means," Freedom Party chief
Heinz-Christian Strache said.
The Social Democrats took the lead
with 44.2% of the vote - down from 49.1% in 2005 - but with just 49
seats to call their own, down from 55, they lost their absolute majority
and will now have to look for a coalition partner.
That comes as a
significant blow to longtime mayor Michael Haeupl, who hoped his party
would not have to share power.
"The voter is always right in a
democracy and as a democrat I accept this result and now we have to keep
working," said a clearly crushed Mr Haeupl, who gave no indication he
would resign over the outcome.
The centre-right People's Party,
meanwhile, also suffered big losses, dropping from 18.8% in 2005 to
13.2% or 13 seats after previously holding 18. The Greens placed fourth
with 12.2%, or 10 seats, down from 14.6 five years ago. It lost four
Over the past few months, the Freedom Party tried to
shore up support with campaign posters that mentioned Vienna blood -
originally a waltz by Johann Strauss - which critics claimed had clear
racist undertones in this political context.
In the end, the
Freedom Party connected best with predominantly male and less educated
voters aged 20 to 29 or above 60, according to the Vienna-based
Institute for Social Research and Analysis.