Embattled Austrian chancellor names FM as successor
October 10 2021 11:54 PM
CENTRE-STAGE: Austria’s designated Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and successor of Sebastian Kurz makes his way to meet Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen at the presidential palace in Vienna yesterday. (Reuters)


Austria’s top diplomat Alexander Schallenberg yesterday said an “enormously challenging task” awaited him after embattled Chancellor Sebastian Kurz named him as his successor in a spectacular leadership change in the EU member.
Kurz — at age 35 one of Europe’s youngest leaders and long celebrated as a “whizz kid” — announced late Saturday that he was stepping down as chancellor, bowing to pressure to resign after he was implicated in a corruption scandal.
Saying he wanted to “make space to prevent chaos,” the conservative — who has headed two governments over the last four years — has suggested foreign minister Schallenberg to take over the chancellery.
President Alexander Van der Bellen said he would swear in Schallenberg today so that “the work for our country can continue”. “This government crisis is over,” he said in a televised national address after a flurry of talks.
In brief comments before meeting the president earlier in the day, Schallenberg spoke of an “enormously challenging task and time, not easy for any of us”.
“But I think we are showing an incredible degree of responsibility for this country,” the 52-year-old told reporters.
Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler of the Greens, who had separate meetings with the president and Schallenberg yesterday, hailed “a new chapter in the government coalition work”.
The 59-year-old had already indicated late Saturday that his party would support Schallenberg to keep the conservative-Greens coalition in government.
Pressure on Kurz to resign, including from the Greens, started after prosecutors on Wednesday raided several locations linked to his People’s Party (OeVP).
They announced that Kurz and nine other individuals were under investigation over claims that government money was used between 2016 and 2018 in a corrupt deal to ensure positive media coverage.
Kurz has denied any wrongdoing, reiterating on Saturday that allegations against him were “false” and that he would seek to clear up the matter while he continues as party leader and as a lawmaker in parliament.
Analyst Thomas Hofer said Kurz would, for now, continue to be “the most influential person in the People’s Party on the national stage”.
“In Kurz’ view, Schallenberg is a place holder... Kurz made his move in such a way that he still is in control of the party and the government team on his side,” Hofer told AFP.
The opposition has blasted the continued conservative-Greens coalition given the graft investigation, with Social Democrats (SPOe) leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner saying even on the back benches Kurz would remain a “shadow chancellor”.

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