The final result of Austria’s election is still too close to call with counting continuing and a tight battle for second place between the far-right and centre-left.
Interior ministry data as of lunchtime on Tuesday shows the centre-left SPO pulling ahead with 26.9 per cent, with the far-right FPO just behind on 26 per cent.
The conservative OVP, led by 31-year old Sebastian Kurz, is guaranteed first place, with currently 31.5 per cent of the vote; the final result is expected on Thursday.
Whether the FPO or SPO comes second will likely affect the final composition of the government; if the SPO ends up ahead, it has suggested it would be open a deal with the FPO as a junior coalition partner – dropping four-decade ban on dealing with the far-right.
This would see the conservative OVP excluded from government despite topping the poll.
The SPO has however ruled out a coalition with the FPO if the SPO has to be the junior partner, meaning the FPO would likely join up with the OVP and make Mr Kurz chancellor.
“We are not yet in the phase of coalition talks,” Mr Kurz said on Monday, explaining that he would wait until the final result became known on Thursday.
Speaking in Brussels a spokesperson for the European Commission called on Mr Kurz to negotiate a “stable, pro-European government” – but he would not be drawn on whether this meant the FPO should specifically be excluded.
A deal between the SPO and OVP however seems unlikely, as a previous government formed between the two parties collapsed amid acrimony in the Spring.
The last time the FPO entered government in the year 2000, other EU states briefly imposed diplomatic sanctions on Austria with the aim of forcing the extremists from government.
The sanctions were short-lived, however, after warnings that they could be counter-productive and stoke up nationalist sentiment in the country.