The date for early elections triggered by the so-called “Ibiza-gate” scandal which brought down Austria’s government has been fixed for September 29, following a decision by a parliamentary commission Tuesday.
The snap poll was prompted by the decision of centre-right Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to end his coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) after a video emerged last month of FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache appearing to offer public contracts in return for campaign help from a fake Russian backer.
While Kurz and President Alexander Van der Bellen favoured a date in early September for the elections, the FPOe and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPOe) pushed for the September 29 date.
Together the FPOe and SPOe have a majority in parliament, which will now have to formally confirm the date.
Both parties lost vote share at May’s European elections and have made no secret of their wish for more time to prepare themselves for national elections.
Kurz and his People’s Party (OeVP), by contrast, won a thumping victory at the European elections and have a commanding lead in the polls, with one survey last week putting them at 38 percent, compared to just 23 percent for the SPOe and 17 for the FPOe.
If 32-year-old Kurz remains in such a commanding position at the end of the campaign he may be able to form a new coalition with either the liberal NEOS party or the Greens, both on nine percent in the same poll.
Two weeks ago the FPOe and SPOe both voted for a no-confidence motion which saw Kurz’s government removed from office.
In a poster campaign launched on Tuesday the OeVP accused the FPOe and SPOe of colluding to bring down the government unnecessarily.
The FPOe for its part has said it is open to the possibility of a new coalition with the OeVP.
Following the explosive revelations in the video published by German media last month, Strache stepped down from his position as vice-chancellor and as head of the FPOe.
However, he received enough so-called “preference votes” in the European elections to take up a place as a member of the European Parliament, though he has so far not announced whether he will do so.