Austrian right-wing official expects strong election result despite corruption scandal

Source: Xinhua| 2019-06-16 18:34:57|Editor: Wu Qin
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VIENNA, June 16 (Xinhua) -- A leading official of the Austrian right-wing populist Freedom Party (FPOe) hopes his party will poll well in September's federal elections, despite recent turmoil over a corruption scandal.

Speaking to the Austria Press Agency in an interview Sunday, party whip and former Interior Minister Herbert Kickl said his wish is that his party will "surpass the 20 percent mark" in the snap election under new lead candidate Norbert Hofer.

He added that ideally the party would manage a result close to that of the last election in 2017, which saw it gain 26 percent of the vote, just behind the second-place Social Democrats.

A strong result would add weight to the FPOe's bid to once again be part of a governing coalition, he said.

Kickl also confirmed that he will be second on the party's candidates list.

The FPOe had initially formed a coalition government with the center-right People's Party (OeVP) following the 2017 election, before the scandal known as the "Ibiza affair" that centered around party leader and then Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache brought a collapse to the government.

It begun when a secret video emerged in mid-May of Strache speaking to purported representatives of a Russian oligarch, where he appeared to offer government contracts in exchange for political favor.

Strache resigned almost immediately after, though OeVP leader and former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz also called for Kickl's dismissal, which was subsequently seen through.

This triggered a chain of events that led to a complete collapse of the coalition government, and the installation of a current caretaker government set to govern until the September election.

Kickl believes Hofer, who was transport minister in the coalition prior to its collapse as well as a former presidential candidate, will make an excellent lead candidate.

In addition, the party will perform better than expected by many, he said, with some having thought the Ibiza affair would be a "knockout" blow.