efe-epaVienna

Austrians were heading to the polls on Sunday in the country's legislative elections, brought forward after the collapse of the ruling coalition.

The Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPO) of Federal Chancellor Christian Kern, the center-right Austrian People's Party (OVP) of Sebastian Kurz and the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) led by Heinz-Christian Strache are locked in a battle to form the next government.

After casting his ballot in the capital Vienna, Kern appeared optimistic at his chances, telling the press that his campaign had strengthened in recent days and so a surprise could not be ruled out.

Meanwhile, Kurz said that he hoped for a good result to be able to introduce real change in the country.

Upon leaving a polling station in the capital, Strache predicted that his party would obtain a record number of votes as it was the only one that guaranteed change.

According to the latest polls, Kurz, 31, is the favorite to win with 33 percent of the votes, with Strache and Kern competing for second with about 25 percent each.

Around 6.4 million citizens were eligible to vote to choose the 183 lawmakers that make up the Parliament, who will serve a five-year term.

According to polls, the liberal New Austria and Liberal Forum (NEOS), The Greens and the center-left Peter Pilz's List could enter the new Parliament, although with percentages very close to the required threshold of 4 percent.

In the previous parliamentary elections held Sept. 29, 2013, the voter turnout was 74.4 percent and the SPO received the most votes (26.8 percent).

The OVP came second with 24 percent while the FPO got 20.5 percent, The Greens 12.4 percent, the populist Team Stronach 5.7 percent and NEOS 4.9 percent.

Although the opening and closing hours of polling stations vary in different parts of the country, the last polling stations close at 5.00 pm.

Immediately after voting ends, public broadcaster ORF will release the first projections based on exit polls while the provisional result of the official count is expected around 8.30 pm.

If the results are very tight, the counting of the postal votes on Thursday will determine the final outcome.