Austrian Social Democrats officially nominate Christian Kern as new chancellor | News | DW | 13.05.2016
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Austrian Social Democrats officially nominate Christian Kern as new chancellor

Austria's senior coalition party has officially nominated railway boss Christian Kern as the country's next chancellor. The decision follows the abrupt resignation of Werner Faymann after months of in-party ructions.

Vienna's mayor and interim leaser of the Social Democrasts (SPÖ), Michael Häupl, revealed the nomination in the Austrian capital on Friday.

"A decision has been made," the Vienna mayor said on the sidelines of a meeting of party leaders. SPÖ executives will make a formal decision on Tuesday, he added.

Chancellery candidate Christian Kern took over as head of Austria's state-run railway operator ÖBB in 2010, and he was a manager at Austrian hydropower utility Verbund. But the Vienna native is no stranger to politics. He previously worked as a spokesman for the Social Democrats' parliamentary group and is a veteran party insider, with 32 years as an SPÖ member.

Opposition over migrant restrictions

Despite the announced nomination on Friday, the 50-year-old still faces a potential hurdle before entering office as Austrian chancellor. The centrist People's Party (ÖVP) - the junior coalition partner - has already signaled that it will accept only a successor to Faymann who backs the tough migrant restrictions - something Kern has stayed silent on.

If successful, however, Kern is expected to be sworn in by President Heinz Fischer on Wednesday, and to address parliament later that day.

Häupl said on Friday that he expects the new chancellor to reunite the Social Democrats who have become divided in recent months, particularly over the handling of refugee crisis.

Werner Faymann

Werner Faymann stood down as chancellor on Monday following months of division within his party

'Fresh start' for SPÖ

Following his resignation on Monday, Faymann said his decision was largely influenced by the 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.

Another issue facing the SPÖ is the growing popularity of Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), which has led opinion polls for the past year. The FPÖ swept across the primary presidential election with 36.4 percent of the vote.

The result marked the first time since 1945 that neither the SPÖ nor the ÖVP succeeded in entering the second round.