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Europe

Austrian conservatives pick foreign minister as new boss

A day after the Austrian People's Party leader resigned for health reasons, party leaders have voted in Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger as his replacement. The change in power comes at a difficult time.

Michael Spindelegger

Spindelegger takes over as party leader and vice chancellor

The conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) elected Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger as party leader and vice chancellor on Thursday, one day after Finance Minister Josef Pröll stepped down for health reasons.

Pröll praised the quick decision by party leaders, telling a news conference that he nominated Spindelegger himself and that the foreign minister was elected unanimously. Pröll announced his resignation on Wednesday after experiencing a pulmonary embolism.

Spindelegger, 51, shares his predecessor's reputation as a pragmatic bridge-builder who seeks compromise with the senior coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPÖ). Tension between the two ideologically divergent parties has been high since they formed their "grand coalition" in 2007.

Spindelegger told reporters his party would have to "restore trust and win back disappointed voters," and that several cabinet changes would be presented in the next parliamentary session on April 28.

The change in ÖVP leadership comes at a difficult time, with dropping poll numbers and a string of bribery and corruption scandals involving members in the European Parliament.

Chancellor Werner Faymann welcomed Spindelegger's election, saying, "We can together overcome future challenges."

There was no word on who would replace Pröll's position as finance minister.

Author: Andrew Bowen (Reuters, AFP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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