Vote forces Chancellor to form coalition government

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Austrian President Kurt Waldheim has asked Chancellor Franz Vranitzky to start work on forming a new government following the inconclusive general election Nov. 23. Mr. Vranitzky, whose Socialist Party (SPOE) retained its relative majority in the 183-seat parliament, said Nov. 25 he hoped to begin talks soon with the conservative People's Party (OEVP) to seek a coalition similar to that which ruled Austria for 19 years after World War II.

But he predicted the negotiations would last six weeks to two months while both sides hammered out their positions on how to tackle Austria's economic problems, which include a staggering $6.5 billion deficit, a money-losing state industrial sector and rising unemployment.

``We need a broad basis of collaboration, and that is a big coalition,'' Vranitzky said.

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OEVP chairman Alois Mock, whose party, like the socialists, sustained heavy losses in the Nov. 23 elections, said he would wait for Vranitzky's approaches, but did not rule out other systems of government.

These included the formation, after a change in the constitution, of a government of all political parties, or a coalition with the right-wing Freedom Party (FPOE) of nationalist leader Joerg Haider, who is unacceptable to the socialists.

The election gave the socialist SPOE 80 seats, the conservative OEVP 77 seats - instead of the provisionally estimated 76 - and Haider's right-wing FPOE 18. The pro-ecology Greens, in parliament for the first time, won eight seats, instead of a provisional nine.

Vranitzky's Cabinet Nov. 25 formally handed its resignation to Mr. Waldheim, who is facing his second government crisis since his election in June. The ministers will stay in their posts until a new administration is formed.

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