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Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 15:00 GMT
Schuessel sets about coalition task
Schuessel (right) meets Austrian president
President Klestil (l) asked for a broad, stable coalition
Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel has begun work on building a new coalition, after meeting the country's president on Tuesday.

President Thomas Klestil asked Mr Schuessel to form a broad, stable coalition, during an hour-long meeting in the capital, Vienna.

Mr Schuessel's centre-right People's Party comfortably won Sunday's general election, as millions of voters turned their backs on his former coalition partner, the far-right Freedom Party.

Election results
But the party does not quite have a parliamentary majority, so it faces a choice between doing a deal with the left, the far-right or the Greens.

Mr Schuessel could also try to run a minority administration - a possibility he mentioned during the election campaign.

The Freedom Party, riven by splits between Joerg Haider and other key figures, saw two-thirds of its previous support disappear.

For Mr Schuessel's conservatives, it was their biggest electoral success for decades.

"I want a stable government which has a broad majority in parliament," Mr Klestil told the conservative leader.

Joerg Haider
Haider's flip-flop resignation policy has added to confusion
Mr Schuessel has suggested a possible renewal of the right-wing pact with the Freedom Party, but says he will talk to all the other parties.

All three coalition partners would present their own problems.

The Social Democrats - who took the second-largest share of the vote - have a leader who is currently opposed to a left-right coalition.

The Greens have consistently ruled out a joining coalition.

The Freedom Party has not yet sorted out its internal rifts, and its position on renewing a coalition remains unclear.

Its leader, Joerg Haider, has indicated his reluctance.

On Monday he added to the confusion by offering to resign as governor of Carinthia, only to withdraw the offer later in the day.

The Freedom Party's opposition to European expansion could also prove a stumbling block.

"You can be sure that the People's Party will not form a coalition with any party that does not clearly support European Union expansion," said conservative general secretary Maria Rauch-Kallat.

Mr Schuessel has said he will try to form a government in the "not-so-distant future."

But analysts warned that the process could take weeks.

"We may see Christmas trees in Austria before we see a new government," said Professor Emmerich Talos Of Vienna University.

See also:

26 Nov 02 | Europe
26 Nov 02 | Europe
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