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Austria swears in new chancellor

October 11, 2021

Alexander Schallenberg, 52, has been sworn in as chancellor of Austria. He replaces Sebastian Kurz, 35, who resigned over the weekend, bowing to critics following raids on his office and party.

The new Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg being sworn in
Austria's new chancellor, Alexander Schallenberg, was sworn in on MondayImage: Lisa Leutner/AP/picture alliance

Alexander Schallenberg, 52, was sworn in Monday as the new chancellor of Austria by President Alexander Van der Bellen.

A career diplomat who served as foreign minister, Schallenberg is a close ally of Sebastian Kurz, who resigned as chancellor Saturday following allegations of corruption in the wake of an investigation that opened last week targeting him and nine others, including senior aides.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel offered their congratulations following the swearing in ceremony.

Why did Kurz resign?

The 35-year-old Kurz and nine others are being investigated for breach of trust, corruption and bribery while Kurz is under investigation separately for perjury. He has denied wrongdoing and initially hesitated to resign, but that position became politically untenable.

Prosecutors allege conservative officials in the Finance Ministry used state funds to pay for manipulated polling data and coverage favorable to Kurz starting in 2016. Last week, there were raids on the chancellery and the headquarters of Kurz's People's Party, as well as other locations tied to the scandal.

Kurz will remain head of his party, a position he has held since 2016, and become its leading member of parliament after exiting the chancellery. He won election to the parliament in 2017.

Kurz's junior coalition partner, the Greens, were adamant Kurz resign. His critics have accused him of overseeing a system that flouted rules on party funding and appointments to state jobs, preferring to install loyalists in his pursuit of power.

Schallenberg to follow Kurz's policies

The opposition believe Schallenberg will continue to do bidding for Kurz, who will remain politically active and who is expected to be somewhat of a "shadow chancellor."

"All opposition parties agree there is no change to the Kurz system. He still has all the strings in his hands and designated Chancellor Schallenberg is part of this Kurz system," said Kai Jan Krainer of the Social Democrats, speaking with ORF radio.

But Kurz himself addressed the rumors said in a statement Monday on Facebook, saying that he was "not a shadow chancellor."

Krainer sat on a parliamentary commission of inquiry that looked into allegations of corruption under the first Kurz government where the People's Party was in coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ).

Kurz's first turn at power ended with the so-called "Ibiza-gate" scandal in 2019.

Michael Linart, 63, Austria's ambassador to France, will replace Schallenberg at the Foreign Ministry.

ar/aw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)