Austria's opposition Social Democrats won nationwide elections on Sunday, swinging the country to the centre-left after more than six years of influence by the extreme right, final unofficial returns showed.
With all but absentee ballots counted, the centre-left bloc had 35.7 per cent of the vote and the People's Party trailed with 34.2 per cent, Interior Minister Liese Prokop said.
Among other things, the Social Democrats have promised to lower the number of unemployed by 100,000 and reduce salary differences between men and women. The party had been in opposition since 2000 following more than three decades as the top vote-getter in Austrian elections.
The far right Freedom Party, which finished third with 11.2 per cent of the vote, had pushed for the immediate deportation of all asylum seekers and other foreigners who commit crimes and argued that the number of foreign children whose mother tongue is not German should be capped at 30 per cent in certain public schools.
The Greens finished fourth with 10.5 per cent of the vote, and the Alliance for the Future of Austria captured 4.2 per cent, just over the threshold needed to remain in parliament.
“Austrians have voted for a fairer society. They're looking for a much stronger commitment to the well-being of all citizens,” said Paul Nyrup Rasmussen, president of the Brussels, Belgium-based Party of European Socialists.