Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Schallenberg was yesterday expected to take over the chancellorship, a day after Sebastian Kurz announced he would step down amid graft claims, capping the spectacular rise of one of Europe’s youngest political leaders.
The 35-year-old conservative late on Saturday announced 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,” Kurz — who has headed two governments over the past four years — has suggested foreign minister Schallenberg to take over the chancellery.
The 52-year-old diplomat was to meet Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen yesterday following a meeting with Austrian Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler of the Greens.
Schallenberg has yet to speak publicly, but Kogler said late on Saturday that his party would support him 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 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, 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.
The opposition has blasted the continued conservative-Greens coalition given the graft investigation, with Social Democrats leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner saying even on the back benches Kurz would remain a “shadow chancellor.”
“There is no doubt that he [Kurz] assumes that he will be able to pull the strings from the not-so-subtle background,” wrote Hans Rauscher, a columnist for the left-leaning Der Standard, dubbing Kurz “tricky Sebastian.”
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