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Last Updated: Monday, 2 October 2006, 16:44 GMT 17:44 UK
Austrian victor rejects far-right
Alfred Gusenbauer celebrates victory for the Social Democrats
Alfred Gusenbauer has been revelling in a surprise victory
The surprise winner of Austria's election is considering how to form a governing coalition, but says he has ruled out allying with the far-right.

The Social Democrats' Alfred Gusenbauer is likely to become the new chancellor, after beating Wolfgang Schuessel's People's Party into second place.

Absentee votes are still being counted and may still affect the final result.

Correspondents said the most likely outcome appeared to be a "grand coalition" between the top two parties.

Mr Gusenbauer said his preference was for an alliance with the Greens. That combination, however, looked like falling short of a majority.

Tough negotiations

The centre-left Social Democrats won 35.7% of the vote, narrowly beating the People's Party, on 34.2%.

The Freedom Party, which campaigned on an anti-foreigner platform, won 11.2%, the Greens 10.5% and Joerg Haider's far-right Alliance for the Future of Austria were on 4%.

"If we don't get a majority with the Greens, there is only one option left: an alliance with the People's Party," Mr Gusenbauer said.

Wolfgang Schuessel
Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel has admitted defeat

He didn't consider collaboration with either of the far-right parties "to be reasonable", he added.

But he acknowledged that forming a new government would "not be easy", and said he would await the results of the absentee count.

Those 400,000-or-so votes could determine whether Joerg Haider's far-right Alliance for the Future of Austria remains above the 4% barrier needed to take seats in parliament.

If it does not, the seats could be redistributed among the other parties, making a coalition with the Greens feasible.

If Mr Gusenbauer fails to reach a deal, however, the People's Party might be able to revive its own partnership with the far-right, forming a coalition with the Freedom Party and the Alliance.

Coalition negotiations are likely to be time-consuming and difficult, reports the BBC's Bethany Bell in Vienna.

The election result surprised pollsters, who had predicted a narrow victory for Mr Schuessel's party.


SEE ALSO
Haider's enduring appeal
08 Mar 04 |  Europe
Austria political map redrawn
25 Nov 02 |  Europe
Country profile: Austria
11 Jul 06 |  Country profiles

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