An election would give the far-right Freedom party (FPO) a good chance of entering national government less than a year after its candidate lost a close-fought presidential runoff.
The FPO is leading opinion polls, just ahead of Kern’s Social Democrats. But surveys also suggest the conservative People’s party would leap ahead if the foreign minister, Sebastian Kurz, took over as its leader, as he is widely expected to do.
“There will definitely … be an election, I assume in the coming autumn,” Kern said on Sunday in an interview with ORF TV. He had resisted the idea of a snap election, calling for the Social Democrat-People’s party coalition to keep working until its term ends in more than a year’s time.
Kurz, 30, is a star of Austrian politics who is widely seen as his party’s best hope of reviving its fortunes. Its current leader, Reinhold Mitterlehner, announced on Wednesday he was stepping down, partly because of his inability to stop infighting among his ministers.
Kurz said on Friday he wanted a snap election but would only accept the party’s top job if it came with sweeping powers on issues including staffing. The leadership was due to meet on Sunday at 4pm local time (1400 GMT) to pick Mitterlehner’s successor.
“The OVP ended the coalition on Friday,” Kern said, referring to Kurz’s speech. Snap elections require a majority in parliament and Kern said he did not believe carrying on with a minority government was viable.