Austria’s Kurz, Greens agree on new coalition government

BERLIN — Austria’s main centre-right party and the environmentalist Greens agreed on a coalition deal Wednesday night that will return ex-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to power.

Both Kurz and Werner Kogler from the Greens, who led the negotiations between the two parties, told reporters in Vienna they had hammered out a government program that will be presented to the public in detail on Thursday afternoon.

“These were demanding negotiations, but the result is a very good one,” Kurz said. “Both us and the Greens will be able to honour the central election promises we made.”

Kogler agreed saying that, “it wasn’t easy, but that’s also not what we were elected for.”

The 33-year-old Kurz’s People’s Party embarked on negotiations with the Greens in mid-November, weeks after it emerged as by far the biggest party from an election. In that vote in September, the Greens, who haven’t previously been part of a federal government in Austria, saw their support soar and returned to parliament after a two-year absence.

The two parties have a combined 97 seats in Austria’s 183-seat parliament. Kurz’s return to power would see him take back the title of the world’s youngest sitting head of government from new Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who is 34.

If the Green party’s delegates formally approve the coalition deal at their party convention on Saturday, the new government could be sworn in as early as next week. It would be the first time that the conservative People’s Party and the Greens form a government in Austria.

The new Austrian government is likely to be significantly different from Kurz’s previous alliance with the far-right Freedom Party.

Kurz led a coalition with the Freedom Party for 17 months until May, when a video showing then-Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache offering favours to a purported Russian investor prompted Kurz to pull the plug.

Parliament then ousted Kurz in a no-confidence vote. Austria has since been run by a non-partisan interim government under Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein.

The Freedom Party said after the election, in which it suffered significant losses, that it preferred to go into opposition to rebuild itself.

The Associated Press

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