Young party leader declares victory in Austria

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The leader of the Austrian far-right Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, has cast his vote in Sunday's lower house elections, the last party leader to so.

The projections showed the center-left Social Democrats receiving 26.6 percent and the vote and the anti-migrant, euroskeptic Freedom Party 26.5 percent.

Both parties focused their campaigns on concerns about immigration and Islam.

Though absentee and mail ballots have yet to be counted, the projections suggest that the anti-immigration Freedom Party will return to government in Austria for the first time since 2005 and a decade of Social Democratic rule will end.

Favoring the People's and Freedom parties is distrust of migrants and Muslims among many Austrian voters.

Mr. Kurz propelled his People's Party (OVP) to the top of opinion polls when he became leader in May.

Since taking the helm in the spring amid growing strains within the governing Social Democratic-People's Party coalition, he moved his centre-right party further to the right, particularly on the issues of migration and Muslims.

Kern says his party will go into the opposition if it does not win Sunday.

Left-leaning president Alexander Van der Bellen, who narrowly defeated a Freedom Party candidate in elections previous year, said he "puts great value on pro-European government". A total of 16 parties are vying for 183 seats in the national parliament and will be chosen by Austria's 6.4 million eligible voters. With a handful of other parties struggling to just get into parliament, the most likely post-vote scenario is a People's Party-Freedom Party coalition that would shift the government significantly to the right.

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