Austrian EU vote helps Kurz in fight to keep job, projection suggests

 Austrian EU vote helps Kurz in fight to keep job, projection suggests

By Francois Murphy and Kirsti Knolle

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz got a boost in his fight to keep his job on Sunday with a projection showing his conservative party coming a clear first in the European Parliament election despite a scandal involving the far right.

Kurz's coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) collapsed after a video sting forced FPO leader and Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache to step down last weekend.

The projection, based on polling mainly before the vote, suggested the Social Democrats, the biggest opposition party, were unable to capitalise on the crisis prompted by the video scandal. Their support fell relative to the last parliamentary vote in 2017 and the European Parliament vote five years ago.

The projection put Kurz's People's Party on 34.5%, the Social Democrats on 23.5% and the far-right FPO in third place on 17.5%.

"It is a barnstorming result. We have achieved the best result of all time, the biggest lead of all time over the second-placed party," Kurz told his supporters, referring to his party's performances in previous European elections.

The projection showed the Greens came in fourth on 13.5%, a leap from the last parliamentary election, in which they failed to make the 4% threshold for entering the assembly, but 1 percentage point less than in the last European election in 2014.

Polls in Austria closed at 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) and the first official results are expected at 11 p.m.

Kurz, fighting to contain the fallout from the scandal and depicting himself as a victim of the current crisis rather than a midwife to it, is now in charge of a caretaker government in which FPO ministers have been replaced by civil servants ahead of a snap election widely expected in September.

Opposition parties say he must carry at least some of the blame, and one or more of them plan to submit a no-confidence motion against him in parliament on Monday.

"One has nothing to do with the other," the Social Democrats' chairman Thomas Drozda told national broadcaster ORF, referring to the projected EU vote result and the no-confidence vote.

"He (Kurz) has done nothing to build this trust that would have been necessary (to support him in parliament)," Drozda said.

The Social Democrats and the Freedom Party are likely to determine the outcome of a no-confidence vote on Kurz. Neither has said which way it will vote.

(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Jane Merriman and Frances Kerry)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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Updated Date: May 27, 2019 01:08:34 IST