Austrian coalition looks set to collapse

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Austria's ruling socialist-conservative coalition looks set to collapse after disagreement over government policy towards European Union expansion and treaty negotiation

The socialist-conservative coalition government in Austria has ended after a year and half of cooperation.

The chairman of the conservative Volkspartei OVP, Wilhelm Molterer, predicted stark consequences from the collapse and demanded a new election, possibly in September according to Financal Times Deutschland.
Molterer blamed the collapse on the recent decision of Social-democrat chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer to introduce referendums on future European-Union treaties, a viewpoint shared by Gusenbauer's designated successor Werner Faymann.

Molterer announced he wanted the dissolution of the 2006-elected parliament in which a coalition government was formed. The necessary ballot could take place later this week.

Whilst Molterer announced the end of the increasingly unpopular coalition, a sitting of the steering committee of the SPO was held in Vienna to determine the direction of the party's European policy. Gusenbauer's future as chancellor or the candidate for the chancellorship could also be discussed. The current cabinet was inaugurated in January 2007.

18 months into his chancellorship Gusenbauer is at an absolute low in terms of popularity. Inside of his party, pressure has been growing in recent weeks to replace Gusenbauer with party chief Werner Faymann. On Monday Molterer announced that he would remain the main candidate for the SPO.

In the 2006 elections the SPO profited from clear losses by the then-ruling Conservative OVP to become the largest party in parliament. Due to the breakdown of votes smaller coalitions were not a viable option, forcing the grand coalition, similar to that in Germany. In the past 18 months the two partners have blocked each other's reform proposals on almost every occasion, leading to political stagnation. Most recently negotiations broke down over the reform of the health insurance system.


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