(Vatican Radio) Supporters of Austria's conservative and eurosceptic People's Party began celebrating late Sunday as first results showed that it had won Austria's parliamentary elections and that its leader Sebastian Kurz could become Europe's youngest prime minister.
The party received nearly 30 percent of the vote amid concerns about massive immigration and Islam, followed by the anti-migration far-right Freedom Party with almost 27 percent, while the center-left Social Democratic Party came in third with just over 26 percent.
Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:
There were shouts of joy at campaign headquarters as latest results show that the People Party received most votes. Much its appeal has been credited to party leader and Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz.
At 31-years-old, Kurz could now become Europe's youngest leader. After casting his ballot, Kurz already voiced optimism for a good result. "I just cast my ballot. I hope that many Austrian man and women will do the same and participate in these elections," he said accompanied by his girlfriend. "I hope for a good result so that real change is possible in Austria."
Commentators say that since becoming party leader this Spring, he moved his center-right party People's Party further to the right, especially on issues such as migration and Muslims. But he avoids the perceived inflammatory rhetoric of the right-wing Freedom Party and its head, Heinz-Christian Strache.
Analysts said that made Kurz's party appealing to voters sensitive about immigration following the mass influx of mostly Muslim migrants in 2015 into the European Union but who oppose the hardline Freedom Party. Latest results showed that the Freedom Party came in second.
It came as a dissapoinment for Social Democratic Chancellor Christian Kern, whose party became the third force. He had said he remained hopeful after casting his ballot earlier in the day. Kern reflected on his party's campaign saying "we are planning a longer party."
Kern stressed that he would "closely monitor the first results" and hopes that they will be positive for his party and its potential ally.
Two messages, were competing for first place in Sunday's general election: Wile Austria's center-left Social Democrats campaigned on reducing social inequality, the People's Party and the Freedom Party focused on mounting worries about immigration and Islam. They want to increase security at Austria's borders and quickly deport asylum-seekers whose requests are denied.
Left-leaning President Alexander Van der Bellen, must eventually swear in a more rightwing government. Van der Bellen expressed hope that the 6.4 million elligible voters would elect again a pro-European government, but the results showed that may change.