Communists win local election in Austria's second largest city

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The Austrian Communist Party has unexpectedly won a municipal election in the country’s second-largest city, Graz.

According to preliminary results, the KPÖ came out on top on Sunday with 29% of the vote, ahead of the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) on 25.7%.

The ÖVP mayor Siegfried Nagl, who has led the city for 18 years, announced he would step down from his post.

Communist candidate Elke Kahr told reporters that the magnitude of the municipal election result was "more than surprising".

"Some people make promises a few weeks before the elections. We are there every day and for years for the people, especially for the poorest," she said.

With more than 220,000 voters, the city of Graz has often voted in favour of the Austrian Communist Party, despite their lack of support in the rest of the country. In the last federal elections in 2019, the party won fewer than 1% of the vote.

Their success in Graz is down to their focus on local issues -- especially housing policy -- while scaling back any Marxist ideology.

But the KPÖ has not yet revealed with which parties it intends to form a governing coalition in the city.

Elsewhere, a new political party opposed to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions also made a surprise breakthrough in the election.

The "Menschen Freiheit Grundrechte" (MFG - "Human, Freedom, Fundamental Rights") will take a seat in the regional parliament with more than 6 per cent of the vote.

MFG was created last February in response to pandemic measures and has expressed scepticism about COVID-19 vaccines.

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