Austria’s Kurz optimistic new coalition will last full term

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Sebastian Kurz, left, head of the Austrian People’s Party, OEVP, poses with Werner Kogler, right, head of the Austrian Greens after a press conference about the government program in Vienna, Austria, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

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BERLIN (AP) — Austrian conservative leader Sebastian Kurz says he’s optimistic that his new coalition government with the environmentalist Greens will last a full five-year term — something that the country’s last two elected administrations failed to do.

Kurz’s People’s Party and the Greens agreed Wednesday to form a coalition of once-unlikely political allies. If a Green party convention on Saturday approves the deal, the 33-year-old Kurz will return to power seven months after his previous alliance with the far-right Freedom Party collapsed.

The agreement combines pledges of action against climate change and of improved government and administrative transparency — Green priorities — with moves to cut Austrians’ tax burden and keep the tough line on migration that Kurz has made a hallmark of his party. Kurz says the deal allows both sides to keep their central election promises, but both had to make painful compromises.

Kurz told ORF television Thursday night he is “very optimistic that this government cooperation will last for five years, and I will try to contribute everything to making that possible.”

Kurz himself had a hand in ending the two previous governments. In 2017, he helped end a year early a bad-tempered government led by the center-left Social Democrats in which he was foreign minister. He told ORF it was right to end such a “standstill.”

Kurz then became chancellor of a coalition government with the Freedom Party. He pulled the plug after 17 months following the release of a video showing then-Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache offering favors to a purported Russian investor.

Parliament then ousted Kurz in a no-confidence vote. Austria has since been run by a non-partisan interim government under Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein.

The People’s Party and Greens were the big winners of Austria’s general election in September.


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