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Polls open in Austria’s general elections

Austrians are taking to the polls in general elections dominated by the issue of refugees and likely to see the rise of a very young leader.

Polling stations opened at 7 am local time (0500 GMT) on Sunday. A total of 6.4 million people are eligible to vote throughout Austria.

Three parties are vying for first place in the national elections, namely the People’s Party (OVP), the Social Democratic Party, and the Freedom Party (FPO).

Opinion polls have consistently shown the OVP in the lead. And incumbent Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, 31, of the OVP, is tipped to become the leader of the next Austrian government. However, his party is not expected to win an absolute parliamentary majority and a coalition government is most probable.

This combination photo shows Austria’s Foreign Minister and leader of the People’s Party (OVP) Sebastian Kurz (L) and the chairman of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPO) Heinz-Christian Strache (by AFP)

Kurz has pledged to take a hard line on refugees.

The Social Democrats and the FPO are battling it out for second place, according to opinion polls.

The FPO, like the OVP, has campaigned against refugees, calling for tightening Austria’s borders and quickly deporting the asylum-seekers whose requests are denied.

The center-left Social Democrats have campaigned for social justice and reducing social inequality.

The country’s political leaders’ anti-refugee stance has in the past years been causing outrage among other European Union (EU) states, Germany and France, in particular.


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