Austria: Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg to take over Chancellorship

Published : October 11, 2021 17:30 IST

Alexander Schallenberg is not implicated in the scandal that forced Kurz to step down. Photo: AP

Alexander Schallenberg has already met with President Alexander Van der Bellen and is set to be sworn in within days. The coalition between Kurz's Austrian People's Party and the Greens will, however, continue.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg is expected to take over the chancellorship, following the resignation of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. It would be an "enormously challenging task," said 52-year-old Schlallenberg, who has been foreign minister since 2019.

Kurz, 35, stepped down on October 9 amid claims of corruption. Saying that he wanted to "make space to prevent chaos," Kurz, who has headed two governments over the last four years, has suggested that Schallenberg take over the top spot. Schallenberg has also met with President Alexander Van der Bellen, and is expected to be sworn in within days.

'An enormously challenging task'

In brief comments before meeting the President, 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," he told reporters.

Kurz's decision to quit amid the graft allegations means that the governing coalition between his conservative Austrian People's Party (OeVP) and the leftist Greens will continue. Green parliamentary group leader Sigrid Maurer said Schallenberg was not implicated in the corruption scandal.

Pressure on Kurz to resign, including from the Greens, started after prosecutors on Wednesday raided several locations linked to the OeVP. They announced that Kurz and nine other people 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, saying that allegations against him were "false" and that he would seek to clear up the matter while he continues as party leader. The Greens had signaled that they would topple Kurz in a vote of no confidence on Tuesday in parliament if he did not stand down.

The OeVP-Greens coalition entered office in January 2020 and has already been strained several times by the fallout from other corruption scandals and differences over questions such as refugee policy.

lc/rc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)