Austria’s new chancellor takes the reins of power

Alexander Schallenberg, Austria
Alexander Schallenberg

Austria’s new chancellor has taken the reins of power, two days after Sebastian Kurz resigned amid corruption allegations.

Austrian president Alexander Van der Bellen swore in Alexander Schallenberg, currently the foreign minister, as chancellor.

Career diplomat Michael Linhart became the country’s new foreign minister, Austrian news agency APA reported.

Mr Kurz, 35, announced on Saturday that he would step aside to defuse a political crisis triggered by prosecutors’ announcement that he is one of the targets of an investigation into suspected bribery and breach of trust.

The conservative Mr Kurz’s junior coalition partners, the Greens, had demanded his replacement.

Mr Kurz denies any wrongdoing.

Mr Kurz and his close associates are accused of trying to secure his rise to the leadership of his party and the country with the help of manipulated polls and friendly media reports, financed with public money.

Mr Kurz became the leader of his Austrian People’s Party and then chancellor in 2017.

Although he is stepping down as chancellor, he is keeping his role as party leader and becoming the head of its parliamentary group, keeping him at the heart of Austrian politics while he fights the corruption allegations.

Mr Kurz responded to the demand for an untainted new leader by proposing Mr Schallenberg, 52, a move that the Greens accepted.

Mr Schallenberg has been loyal to Mr Kurz and shares his hard line on curbing migration, but has a background in diplomacy rather than party politics.

Mr Van der Bellen lauded the two new leaders’ experience in representing Austria abroad in the past, but also stressed the responsibility they have in restoring the Austrian people’s confidence in the country’s government.

“We all expect that the government will go back to work and moves things forward together,” Mr Van der Bellen said.

Mr Schallenberg served as the country’s foreign minister since 2019, while Mr Linhart was Austria’s ambassador to France until he was called back to Vienna on the weekend to take on the foreign minister’s post.

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