Austrian far right says can work with Social Democrats' coalition terms

Austrian far right says can work with Social Democrats' coalition terms

A senior member of Austria's far-right Freedom Party sees "nothing insurmountable" in the ruling Social Democrats' new preconditions for any future coalition talks, he said in remarks published on Friday.

Former presidential candidate Norbert Hofer of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPO) addresses a news conference in Vienna, Austria, April 25, 2017. Picture taken April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

VIENNA: A senior member of Austria's far-right Freedom Party sees "nothing insurmountable" in the ruling Social Democrats' new preconditions for any future coalition talks, he said in remarks published on Friday.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said on Wednesday his Social Democratic Party (SPO) was renouncing its 30-year ban on national coalitions with the Freedom Party (FPO) and instead adopting a set of terms that any coalition partner must meet.

An Oct. 15 parliamentary election is shaping up to be a three-horse race between those parties and the SPO's junior coalition partner, the conservative People's Party (OVP), which is leading in opinion polls. The OVP and SPO are at loggerheads, increasing the FPO's chances of allying with either of them.

The SPO's new terms include both a "values compass" of principles - including support for the European Union, human rights and gender equality - that any partner must meet and a list of policies it wants to include in any coalition deal.

"It is formulated in such a way that it could not be a reason to exclude any party in parliament," FPO deputy leader Norbert Hofer said in an interview with newspaper Der Standard, referring to the SPO's broad set of principles.

He also did not dismiss the more specific list of policies, which includes raising the minimum wage to 1,500 euros (US$1,676) a month and, more problematically for the FPO, taxing inheritances of more than 1 million euros.

"It is in reality nothing insurmountable," said Hofer, who came close to winning last year's presidential election.

Kern has said his party and the FPO are far apart on issues including gender equality, taxation and integration. Hofer did not address all those points but said common ground might be found.

"On the whole we do not like new taxes," Hofer said, adding that since the inheritance tax plan was aimed at funding public healthcare, that could be achieved through savings instead.

"There is great potential in terms of possibilities to make means available by better organising the state," he added.

The FPO is short on specific economic policy proposals but generally rails against the taxation level while supporting the generous welfare state.

Hofer said it was too soon to go into detail on what talks might take place after October's snap election.

"We do not want to say beforehand but see how the election goes," he said.

(US$1 = 0.8951 euros)

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Toby Davis)

Source: Reuters