Austrian chancellor resigns, but still pulls the strings


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“The varnish is peeling off for Sebastian Kurz”. That was the title of my comment in New Europe concerning the Austrian Chancellor in April. Last week, his political career led to turmoil after new judicial procedures towards him and eight others near him related to corruption and distorted opinion polls turned public.

Three opposition parties introduced a vote of no confidence in parliament, and even the coalition companion of Kurz, the Inexperienced celebration, needed to hitch in.  With a positive majority towards him, there was only one method out – Kurz, who is simply 35 years previous and who was Austria’s youngest chancellor on the age of31, stepped down and opted for the nonetheless influential place as chief of the fraction of his get together within the Austrian Parliament. He stays head of the most important social gathering in Austria – the Volkspartei (ÖVP).

As all his cupboard members, several governors of provinces and different get together leaders remained loyal to Kurz, he was in a position to decide on his personal successor. Overseas Minister, Alexander Schallenberg, a career diplomat, was sworn in by Federal President, Alexander Van der Bellen, a former green politician. Van der Bellen criticized the injury that the newest scandal prompted iin Austria and even excused himself for having been concerned in talks with Kurz.

Kurz used astonishingly impolite swearwords about his predecessor, Wolfgang Mitterlehner, whom he ousted in 2017, also with the assistance of distorted opinion polls paid by the ministry of finance and later revealed in an Austrian tabloid Österreich. Kurz entered the workplace as chancellor with what he referred to as ‘new politics’, but that picture was shortly discredited and discarded. 

In Austria, and within the EU establishments, he was lengthy thought-about a political capturing star. German media, particularly, courted him because he dared to criticize his German party-family colleague, Angela Merkel, about Berlin’s refugee coverage. In 2016, Kurz claimed to have closed the so-called ‘Balkan Route’ for the mainly Syrian and Afghan refugees that have been arriving from Turkey and heading to Germany and Sweden. 

The downfall of the political wunderkind began in 2019 when his first coalition with the populist right-wing FPÖ ended after a scandal involving secretly recorded movies of conversations between the then-party chief, Heinz-Christian Strache, and the alleged niece of a Russian oligarch in Ibiza. Strache promised the lady a publish and business contracts if she supported him and even announced that heads would roll at Austria’s public radio and TV retailers and in Austria’s largest every day Kronen Zeitung.

After Strache was pressured to resign, the complete Kurz-led government did not survive a confidence vote. A cupboard of specialists took over till new elections have been held in the autumn of 2019. Kurz gained the most important number of votes and, in early 2020, for the primary time in Austria’s history, entered into a coalition with the Greens.

Through the Covid-Pandemic, Kurz initially reduce an excellent determine. He referred to as for the first onerous lockdown within the spring of 2020 and addressed the public in virtually day by day TV appearances together with the Inexperienced well being minister, Rudolf Anschober, who later resigned due to health problems. Kurz complained about what he referred to as ‘bazaar methods’ in Brussels for the acquisition of vaccines.

Kurz obtained dangerous marks within the press when he attacked EU politics utilizing populist language and even asked for more tolerance in the direction of the governments of Hungary and Poland. Now, after his sudden departure as Chancellor, there has been speculation concerning the extent to which Kurz will continue to tug the strings as parliamentary get together leader. 

Schallenberg induced astonishment when he described the accusations of the corruption Prosecutor’s Office towards Kurz as unfounded and announced an early rehabilitation for Kurz. This earned him harsh comments in Austria’s main newspapers, who stated that he had missed a chance to free himself from Kurz’s influence and thus reveal his independence.

Schallenberg, nevertheless, introduced that he would proceed to coordinate the every day governmental duties with Kurz. As overseas minister, Schallenberg had all the time adopted Kurz’s course, particularly in the former’s hard-line migration coverage. After the withdrawal of US troops, for instance, he strictly rejected the admission of refugees from Afghanistan. Schallenberg additionally brusquely rejected appeals to absorb ladies and youngsters from the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos. As an alternative, he introduced “help on the bottom”, above all by means of a day-care centre for youngsters. Solely lately, nevertheless, media proved that the variety of youngsters cared for by Austrian associations similar to SOS Youngsters’s Villages had truly decreased.

Schallenberg has since introduced that there can be no additional modifications in the cupboard. Nevertheless, some of Kurz’s closest collaborators in the Chancellery concerned in the allegations have gone on depart. Though a parliamentary investigation into the results of the “Ibiza Affair”, which uncovered unusual politically-motivated personnel selections within the first ÖVP-FPÖ authorities in state-related corporations reminiscent of “Casinos Austria” and the holding company “ÖBAG”, came to an end in the summer, opposition parties have now already introduced a new investigation into the judicial accusations towards Kurz.

The legal proceedings are reportedly to proceed for months, which signifies that Kurz will continue to be on the centre of the investigations in his new perform in parliament, notably after he announced his intention to waive parliamentary immunity.  

In the meantime, an growing variety of ÖVP politicians are ruling out his return to the chancellery, particularly provincial governors. This exhibits that Kurz has already misplaced trust in his celebration, which is contrary to all different protestations. 

In the meantime, Schallenberg deliberately chose Brussels because the destination of his first journey overseas. He introduced that Austria will stay a reliable associate within the EU and added that Austria might be a “good however, if crucial, associate.”

EU Fee President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed Schallenberg to the European Fee and spoke of a “robust signal” that he sent while he was in Brussels. Von der Leyen stated Schallenberg was “an skilled on Europe” and added that she was wanting ahead to an excellent cooperation with the brand new Chancellor.

Austria’s authorities needs to play its full part. Earlier in October, Vienna passed an “eco-social tax reform” by which corporations and private people should pay more inexperienced taxes for power consumption and CO2 footprint.