Austria's two far-right parties made sweeping gains at legislative elections on September 28. The Freedom Party and the Alliance for the Future of Austria took nearly 29% of the vote, according to preliminary results.
The Social Democrats came first with 30%, followed by coalition partner the conservative People's Party, with 26%, although both parties suffered their worst results since 1945.
The early polls were called after the grand coalition between the Social Democrats and the People's Party collapsed this summer amid internal fights and personal feuds. The most obvious solution now would be another grand coalition between the Social Democrats and the People's Party, but this seems unlikely, given their recent differences, and would be unpopular with most Austrians.
Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache, which won 18% of the vote, has suggested that he would be interested in becoming the next Chancellor. The Alliance for the Future of Austria - which split from Mr Sprache's party in 2005 - won 11%, and is led by Jorg Haider, who led the Freedom Party in 1999 when it won 27% of the vote and gained a place in the coalition government with the conservatives.
The resurgent far-right can be attributed to a mixture of anti-EU sentiment, some anti-immigrant positions and a general sense of discontent with the two traditional centrist parties. The nationalists could now re-enter government, but only after all other options are exhausted, according to most experts.
For the first time in an EU country, 16 and 17-year-olds were able to vote. This bloc represented about 200,000 of the 6.3 million-strong electorate.
Outgoing Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer will remain in place until a new administration is formed.
29 September 2008