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Europe

Austria's mainstream right, far-right to form anti-immigration government

media Heinz-Christian Strache (L) Sebastian Kurz (R) interviewed on television in Vienna, 12 October 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Austria's conservative People's Party has agreed to form a coalition government with the far-right Freedom Party, wrapping up a year that has seen success for Europe's hardline nationalists. If the coalition is ratified, Austria would become the only western European state with a far-right party in power.

The deal reached late on Friday comes two months after a parliamentary election which the People's Party won but without an overall majority.

Its leader Sebastian Kurz is set to become chancellor and the world's youngest leader at 31.

The People's Party, or OeVP, came first in the 15 October vote with 31.5 percent.

During the campaign Kurz promised to get tough on immigration and lower taxes.

The Freedom Party (FPOe) came third with 26 percent of the vote.

Its leader Heinz-Christian Strache is set to become deputy chancellor. The party has secured the interior and the defence ministries, according to Der Standard newspaper's online edition.

Austria ostracised during previous coalition

The parties previously governed the country together between 2000 and 2005.

The last time the FPOe entered government, in 2000 under controversial then-leader Joerg Haider, who is now dead, Austria was briefly ostracised within the European Union.

The FPOe, which has a partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, wants EU sanctions on Moscow lifted and says Islam has no place in Austria.

Kurz joined eastern and central European countries on Friday in backing EU President Donald Tusk's rejection of mandatory refugee quotas during a two-day summit in Brussels.

Eastern European states like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, which have refused to take part, agree with Tusk but others, including France, Germany and Greece do not.

Migrants, regulation, EU

Both of the Austrian right-wing parties ran on promises of cutting benefits for all foreigners, including migrants from the rest of the EU, slashing what they see as bureaucracy and stopping the European Union having too much say in domestic affairs.

Kurz however said on Thursday that the "pro-European" stance of the incoming government "has been secured". He reportedly aims to retain control of Austria's EU affairs.

Further details on the new coalition's plans were expected Saturday once the two parties approve the agreement. The government will be sworn in next week.

Demonstrations planned

Several different groups including the anti-fascist "Offensive against the Right" have said they plan to stage demonstrations on Monday in Vienna.

Meanwhile, Europe's far-right leaders, including French politician Marine Le Pen, will gather in Prague on Saturday for a conference to discuss how to cooperate outside of EU institutions.

Protesters have accused them of spreading hate and xenophobia.

Le Pen, who lost this year's French presidential election run-off to Emmanuel Macron, will join Geert Wilders, the head of the Dutch Party for Freedom, Lorenzo Fontana from Italy's Lega Nord, and the FPO's Georg Mayer.

The conference takes place two months after the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy party led by Tokyo-born entrepreneur Tomio Okamura won more than 10 percent of votes in the Czech general election on a staunchly anti-Islam and anti-EU ticket.

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