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Waldheim Vote Viewed As Protest Against Socialist Led Government

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The election of Kurt Waldheim to the Presidency of Austria by a comfortable margin Sunday is being interpreted by political observers here as less a vote of confidence in Waldheim, a man accused of war crimes, than a protest against the Socialist-led government. Chancellor Fred Sinowatz, leader of the Socialist-Liberal coalition, resigned 24 hours after Waldheim defeated his Socialist rival, Kurt Steyrer by 54-46 percent, one of the largest pluralities ever recorded in an Austrian Presidential election.

Sinowatz was promptly succeeded by Finance Minister Franz Vranitzky, a 49-year-old banker considered a pragmatist of the Socialist right wing. He had formerly served 12 years as Minister for Education and Culture.

The Socialist Party’s fortunes have been waning since the 1983 parliamentary elections when Chancellor Bruno Kreisky lost his absolute majority and was forced to resign. Sinowatz had been Kreisky’s chosen successor. His replacement by Vranitzky indicated a rightward turn by the Socialist Party in preparation for the next parliamentary contest in April, 1987.

According to Alois Mock, chairman of the conservative People’s Party which sponsored Waldheim’s candidacy, the government reshuffle is only a “transitory solution” until next year’s parliamentary elections. Norbert Steger, who is Vice Chancellor and chairman of the liberal-right Freedom Party, the Socialists’ coalition partner, said he considers the new leadership “workable.”

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