Austria’s snap election: What you need to know

Austria heads to the polls on Sunday in its snap parliamentary election.

But who is Sebastian Kurz, why is he so popular and why is Austria holding a snap election?

Here are your questions answered.

Image:The Austrian parliament building, which was built in 1874

What is the structure of the Austrian government?

Austria has a similar government structure to Germany.

A chancellor in Austria and Germany is equivalent to a prime minister.

The president of Austria is the federal head of state and is mostly a figurehead who acts on the advice of the chancellor.

Austria is electing a new chancellor, who will be the leader of the strongest party.

Image:Christian Kern is currently the Chancellor of Austria – but for how long?

Who is in power at the moment?

There is currently a coalition government in place in Austria between the centre-left Social Democratic Party and the centre-right Conservative People’s Party.

Post-war Austria has had a “grand coalition” arrangement where the two main parties form a government.

Image:Heinz-Christian Strache (L), Christian Kern (C) and Sebastian Kurz (R)

Who’s who?

Christian Kern is the current Chancellor of Austria and chairman of the Social Democratic Party.

Sebastian Kurz is the leader of the Conservative People’s Party (or Austrian People’s Party) – and polls suggest he will win the largest share of the vote.

Heinz-Christian Strache is head of the right-wing, populist Freedom Party.

Image:A poster for the right-wing, populist Freedom Party

How popular is the Freedom Party?

The Freedom Party was very popular for a year, leading in opinion polls.

This changed when Sebastian Kurz took over the Conservative People’s Party in May, driving his party into first place.

However, due to the nation’s attitude towards immigration, it is looking more likely that there is an appetite for the Freedom Party, which takes a hard stance on the issue.

The Freedom Party could be instrumental in forming a government if it comes in second place, beating the Social Democratic Party and pushing them out of power.

Image:Divisions had grown between Christian Kern (L) and Reinhold Mitterlehner (R)

Why was this snap election called?

Reinhold Mitterlehner resigned as vice chancellor and leader of the Conservative People’s Party in May.

His resignation came amid conflict between the coalition with the Social Democratic Party leader and Chancellor Christian Kern.

Sebastian Kurz was elected as his replacement, and called the early election.

Image:At 31 years old, could Sebastian Kurz be Austria’s next chancellor?

Why is everyone talking about Sebastian Kurz?

Sebastian Kurz became the world’s youngest serving foreign minister in 2013 at the age of 27.

He was accused of being “hard-hearted” by Germany’s Die Welt newspaper after calling for a more robust outer EU border, and an end to the charity rescues of refugees in the Mediterranean.

His Conservative People’s Party has been taking the lead in recent polls.

Image:The issue of immigration has divided opinion and sparked protests in Austria

What are the big issues facing the parties?

Immigration is a very hot topic. Austria took in more than 1% of its population in asylum seekers in 2015, that’s about 87,000 people.

This caused attitudes towards immigrants and immigration to harden considerably.

Sebastian Kurz of the Conservative People’s Party has pledged to take a harder stance on immigration and challenge Angela Merkel’s lax approach.

Image:Austria goes to the polls on Sunday

When does it all kick off?

Polls open at 6am UK time (7am local time) on Sunday 15 October.

Polls close at 4pm UK time (5pm local time), when the exit poll will be announced.

What’s likely to happen?

Polls suggest Sebastian Kurz is on course to win the election and become the next chancellor, teaming up with the far-right Freedom Party.