Centre-left candidate beats Communist in Salzburg mayoral run-off

VIENNA (Reuters) – The centre-left deputy mayor of Salzburg, Bernhard Auinger, beat his Communist rival Kay-Michael Dankl in a run-off vote for mayor on Sunday and pledged to work with him after Dankl focused on high housing costs in one of Austria’s hardest-hit cities.

Dankl, 35, led his party to second place in this month’s city council election, close behind Auinger’s Social Democrats. Just 821 votes separated the two men in the separate, first-round vote for mayor of the country’s fourth largest city, best known to tourists as the home of Mozart and “The Sound of Music”.

“Apart from the day I met my wife and the birth of my two wonderful daughters, today is definitely the happiest day of my life,” Auinger, 50, said in a statement to the media alongside Dankl after he emerged the clear winner with most votes counted from the second round.

With all but postal ballots counted, he had 63.1% of the vote to Dankl’s 36.9%.

“I believe that Kay will be a strong addition to our city government. I am convinced that we will work together excellently,” Auinger said. While Austria’s second city, Graz, already has a Communist mayor, winning in Salzburg would have been a rare triumph for a party not even in national parliament.

Auinger told Reuters last week that Dankl’s pledge to build 1,000 units of subsidised rental housing a year to alleviate the city’s housing crisis was unrealistic, suggesting 1,500 over five years instead.

But he did say he favoured putting Dankl in charge of housing in the city.

“That four out of 10 voters gave us their trust in today’s election shows that many people want a different social policy,” Dankl said.

Speaking to Puls 24 television later, Dankl added: “The key issue in Salzburg is that housing costs continue to rise. The city government could do something about that, for example by investing more in subsidised rental accommodation,” he said.

“The misappropriation of living space through Airbnb, speculation and vacant apartments could be better brought under control.”

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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