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Austrian conservatives on course for coalition with far right, reports say

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Austrian conservatives on course for coalition with far right, reports say

Austria's conservative People's Party, led by 31-year old Sebastian Kurz, was seen likely to forge a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party after winning Oct. 15's elections, media reported.

The People's Party won 31.4% of the vote, ahead of the Freedom Party on 27.3% and the incumbent Social Democrats on 26.8%, preliminary Interior Ministry data showed.

Kurz, who served as foreign minister under the outgoing Social Democratic-led government, took on much of the Freedom Party's hard-line stance on refugees. He wants the EU to shut down routes to Europe via the Mediterranean, cut social benefits for refugees and restrict access to Austria for workers from other EU countries.

Austria's current Chancellor Christian Kern said he expects Kurz and the Freedom Party's Heinz-Christian Strache to agree on a coalition pact soon, Bloomberg News reported. Kurz and Strache agree on business-friendly policies such as cutting corporate taxes on retained profits and staying in the German-led camp favoring fiscal austerity in the eurozone.

A coalition between Kurz and the Freedom Party would likely resist proposals by key partners such as Germany and France on issues including deeper fiscal integration in the eurozone and maintaining economic sanctions on Russia. However, the coalition could be open to common EU action on migration and security.

Kurz could also seek to form a coalition with the center-left Social Democrats, but that would run against his campaign promise of overhauling the country's tradition of government by the two biggest mainstream parties.

The final official result of the election is expected to be announced Oct. 19 after postal votes are counted.