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27 May, 2019 14:15

Austria’s Chancellor Kurz loses no confidence vote following corruption scandal

Austria’s Chancellor Kurz loses no confidence vote following corruption scandal

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has lost a no confidence vote in parliament following corruption allegations involving his now ex-vice chancellor. The scandal earlier led to the breakup of the coalition government.

The motion was brought to Austria’s lower house of parliament by Peter Pilz, an environmentalist MP, and on Monday supported by the left-wing Social Democrats (SPO) and the right-wing Freedom Party (FPO).

All in all, 110 of the parliament’s 183 MPs voted to oust Kurz’s government, which had functioned in a caretaker role since the collapse of his coalition last week.

Austrian President Alexander Van Der Bellen will now appoint a caretaker chancellor to lead the country until fresh elections can be held (presumably in September). Last Wednesday, Van Der Bellen swore in a mix of politicians and technocrats to fill ministerial roles vacated by the FPO recently.

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The ruling coalition between Kurz’s conservative People’s Party (OVP) and the FPO was rocked by the scandal on May 17. Back then, German media published a video showing vice chancellor and FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache allegedly soliciting a bribe from a woman who “supposedly” was a niece of a Russian tycoon.

Strache resigned following the scandal in order to not “damage” the coalition. He slammed the video as a “targeted political assassination,” saying the released parts were taken out of context. Kurz swiftly distanced himself from the junior coalition partner and called for snap elections as the only way to “restore trust in public institutions.”

The 32-year-old chancellor also proposed the sacking of the interior minister, Herbert Kickl, who, as Kurz put it, was unfit to lead a probe into his party’s leader. Kickl’s departure was followed by a walkout of FPO ministers. Five out of 13 ministers in Kurz’s government left their positions.

In the wake of Monday’s no confidence motion, speculation will now turn to whether Kurz can claw his way back into power. In 2002, then-Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel survived a no confidence vote only to solidify his power in the following election. For Kurz, the chances of returning to office could be significantly slimmer.

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Monday’s vote was the first time such a motion passed the Austrian parliament, and marks the official end of Austria’s second-shortest chancellorship in modern history. Elected in 2017, the 32-year-old Kurz led the country for just 18 months.

Although the left and right teamed up to boot Kurz from office, the now ex-chancellor’s party triumphed in Sunday’s European Parliament elections, winning 35 percent of the vote. Kurz’s party outperformed the Social Democrats, who won 23 percent, and the Freedom Party, which took 17 percent.

The OVP’s success was replicated across the EU, where nationalist and anti-establishment parties sailed to victory, alongside a surprising resurgence from green parties.

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