Austrian Conservatives Jump in Polls After Kurz Nomination

  • People’s Party seen at 33%-35% in first surveys this week
  • Kurz would have enough votes for coalition with nationalists

Austria’s conservative People’s Party jumped into the lead in the first opinion polls published since 30-year-old Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz took over the party and pressed for snap elections.

Support for the group, junior coalition partner of Chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democrats, rose 33 percent to 35 percent of the vote from around 20 percent before his nomination, according to two separate surveys published in Austrian newspapers on Friday.

Sebastian Kurz

Photographer: Georg Hochmuth/AFP via Getty Images

That gives the party a comfortable lead over Kern and would enable it to form a coalition with the nationalist Freedom Party if the scores were replicated in the Oct. 15 election.

“Sebastian Kurz has a very good starting position, because the candidate currently shows very good polling data,” pollster Unique Research said in a note for the Heute daily newspaper. “It remains to be seen if he can keep it during the campaign.”

Kern’s center-left Social Democrats would tie with the Freedom Party in the Unique survey, at 26 percent each. That would indicate Freedom is losing more votes to Kurz, whose policies on migration have taken many cues from the nationalists. A second poll, by Research Affairs for the Oesterreich newspaper, shows Kern’s party dropping to 20 percent while the Freedom Party holds up better, at 26 percent.

A Kurz-led coalition with the nationalists, led by Heinz-Christian Strache, would revisit the early 2000s, when People’s Party leader Wolfgang Schuessel teamed up with the late Joerg Haider. The government faced ostracism by fellow EU members concerned by the government role for a party founded by ex-Nazis.

Kurz won the backing of the People’s Party’s leadership last week after he demanded full rein over the campaign platform and personnel. The group had worn out four chairmen in the last ten years amid bickering between regions and factions. The last to step down last week was Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner.

Unique surveyed 601 voters and shows a margin of error of 4 percentage points for all three big parties. Research Affairs polled 600 and didn’t provide a margin of error.

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