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Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann steps down

Werner Faymann has resigned as Austrian chancellor and leader of the Social Democrats. There have been growing calls for his departure following the party's failure in the first round of the presidential election.

After almost eight years in office, Werner Faymann confirmed on Tuesday that he was resigning as Austrian chancellor and leader of the Social Democrats (SPÖ) following a loss of support within his party's ranks.

"This country needs a chancellor whose party is completely behind them," Faymann said. "The government needs a fresh start with force. Anyone who doesn't have this support isn't up to the job."

The 56-year-old, who entered office in December 2008, was already confronted by calls to resign after the SPÖ was defeated in the first round of the presidential election on April 24.

Much to the delight of fellow far-right factions across Europe, Austria's Freedom Party (FPÖ) swept the first round of the elections, with 36.4 percent of the vote. The result marked the first time since 1945 that neither the SPÖ nor the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) succeeded in entering the second round.

Shortly after Faymann's announcement, the German news agency DPA reported that Vienna Mayor Michael Häupl would take over SPÖ leadership in the interim.

Refugee policy reversal

Speaking from the chancellor's office on Monday, Faymann also took the opportunity to defend the end to Austria's "Welcome culture" for refugees.

Having previously supported the relatively liberal policy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Austrian officials made a U-turn in March, imposing a cap of 80 asylum applications a day and erecting a 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) fence along the border with Slovenia.

Faymann's resignation on Monday came two days after hundreds of protesters gathered at the Brenner Pass, on the border with Italy, to demonstrate against Austria's latest checks.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also criticized the new border controls, saying they would be a "political catastrophe" for Europe.

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