Austrian leader ousted in vote of no confidence

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz with supporters after the European Parliament elections on Sunday. His Austrian People's Party surged to a decisive victory in the ballot.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz with supporters after the European Parliament elections on Sunday. His Austrian People's Party surged to a decisive victory in the ballot.PHOTO: REUTERS

Collapse of Sebastian Kurz's coalition govt comes as his own party scores decisive win in European elections

VIENNA • Austrian lawmakers yesterday voted conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's government out of office, passing a motion of no confidence days after it became a caretaker administration in the wake of a video sting scandal.

The motion was backed by lawmakers from the Social Democrats and the far-right Freedom Party, which was in a coalition with Mr Kurz's party until a week ago when its leader became embroiled in the video sting and stepped down.

Mr Kurz ended their alliance and led what was effectively a minority government.

Austria's President Alexander Van der Bellen must now appoint a chancellor to form a government that can garner Parliament's support until the next national election, which is expected to be held in September.

This is the first time since Austria was reconstituted after World War II that a chancellor has been thrown out of office.

It is a reversal of fortune for the 32-year-old Mr Kurz, Europe's youngest leader and now also Austria's shortest-serving chancellor.

The parliamentary decision came just hours after his conservative Austrian People's Party surged to a decisive victory in European parliamentary elections. It netted record support and came in first as the opposition failed to capitalise on the week-old scandal that threw the government into disarray.

"Voters will have their say on election day," Mr Kurz said during the parliamentary debate ahead of the no-confidence motion.

 
 
 
 

"I made an effort to provide stability, to put together a capable acting government."

The successful no-confidence vote could turn out to be a high-risk gamble for the opposition as opinion polls suggest Austrians did not want Mr Kurz removed.

Since taking office in 2017, Mr Kurz has tried to show conservatives across Europe that they can achieve goals by working with their nationalist rivals.

But the collapse of his coalition has served rather to highlight the risks of getting into bed with a party that has spent much of its time on the fringes of the mainstream.

The no-confidence vote comes just over a week after a video sting scandal prompted far-right Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache to step down and Mr Kurz to scrap the coalition between their parties.

The footage, which appeared to show Mr Strache discussing fixing government contracts, was published by two German media outlets.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2019, with the headline 'Austrian leader ousted in vote of no confidence'. Print Edition | Subscribe