Scandal-hit Austria: New chancellor, same policies | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW

Scandal-hit Austria: New chancellor, identical insurance policies | Europe | Information and present affairs from across the continent | DW

After being engulfed in political drama over the previous couple of days, Austria has a brand new head of presidency, however, apparently, a reluctant one. Alexander Schallenberg, who has taken over from Sebastian Kurz, describes himself as being “chancellor in opposition to his will.”

At his inauguration within the chancellery on Vienna’s Ballhausplatz, the previous international minister stated the submit was an honor that “he had by no means needed for himself.” However he additionally stated it was an honor that he couldn’t refuse. In spite of everything, Schallenberg, a detailed ally of the previous chief, had been requested to tackle the job by Kurz himself.

Kurz resigned on Saturday amid critical corruption allegations in opposition to him and various his allies within the conservative Austrian Individuals’s Get together (ÖVP). He was compelled to step down after the social gathering’s coalition companions, the Greens, threatened to drag out of presidency.  

Kurz sees himself because the sufferer. The world’s youngest head of presidency had a meteoric rise in his profession; he was solely 31 when he turned chancellor.

“This isn’t about me, that is about Austria,” he stated in a tv tackle.

Tunnel imaginative and prescient on chancellery 

However a lot of Austria’s political commentators do not fairly purchase the previous chancellor’s uncommon selflessness. In spite of everything, the revelations of the latest corruption scandal laid naked {that a} “Kurz system” had existed years earlier than. The goal of what was dubbed “mission Ballhausplatz,” named for the placement of the chancellery, was for Kurz to take over the conservative social gathering after which the place of chancellor.

Sebastian Kurz used political intuition, crafty and intrigue to maneuver himself to the highest of the beleaguered social gathering in 2017. He gave the conservative Individuals’s Get together (ÖVP) a makeover, rebranding the social gathering as “Liste Sebastian Kurz,” and altering the social gathering colours from black to turquoise. Kurz received the elections and ejected the center-left Social Democrats (SPÖ) from the chancellery.

Kurz at election rally in front of balloons and banner reading: A new style

Contemporary-faced Kurz gave his social gathering a makeover and have become chancellor in 2017

With its staunchly conservative course and contemporary faces, Kurz’s social gathering received probably the most votes. When it got here to forming a coalition authorities, Sebastian Kurz did not draw back from moving into the political mattress with the far-right Freedom Get together (FPÖ). He even took over a lot of their populist insurance policies in direction of immigrants and buddied as much as far-right governments in Poland and Hungary. Kurz categorically refused to simply accept asylum-seekers underneath the European Union’s refugee relocation scheme.

When the Individuals’s Get together’s coalition companions, the Freedom Get together, was compelled out of presidency in 2019 after a distasteful scandal, Sebastian Kurz had no misgivings about forming a coalition with the Greens regardless of their many political variations. He proved himself to be versatile.

Some politicians inside the far-right Freedom Get together, like Gottfried Waldhäusl, see him as an opportunist. After Kurz’s election victory in 2019, the Freedom Get together politician from Decrease Austria predicted that his coalition with the Greens would solely final two years.

“He’s Austria’s greatest opportunist,” stated Waldhäusl. He says there was no means that Kurz might maintain all his guarantees. Maybe Waldhäusl was solely upset as a result of Kurz’s revamped Individuals’s Get together managed to steal the Freedom Get together’s thunder and appeal to far-right voters. Textual content messages from Kurz and his entourage which have lately come to mild converse of changing into a “extra fashionable” model of the Freedom Get together.

Is Schallenberg a stand-in for Kurz?

Austria is unlikely to vary its political course a lot underneath its new chancellor. In his first look in workplace, Alexander Schallenberg promised (or, one might say, threatened) to collaborate intently with Sebastian Kurz. The previous chancellor will stay the Individuals’s Get together chief, in addition to the pinnacle of the parliamentary faction.

“Kurz is pursuing the plan of, figuratively, stepping apart — however then standing aspect by aspect with the brand new chancellor, Schallenberg,” says Petra Stuiber, the deputy editor-in-chief of the Austrian newspaper Der Commonplace. She says Kurz expects to be “the one who is constant to drag the strings within the background.”

Kurz walking out of chancellery

Sebastian Kurz could also be stepping down, however is he actually stepping apart?

The Greens wish to stay in authorities and have gone together with this transformation on the high. A no-confidence vote in opposition to Sebastian Kurz that was slated for Tuesday not befell. However the opposition Social Democrats are actually setting their sights on Finance Minister Gernot Blümel, one other shut ally of Kurz, who’s alleged to be deeply mired in a bribery scandal.

It’s not but clear what else Austrian prosecutors would possibly reveal concerning the goings-on within the Individuals’s Get together and within the higher echelons of presidency throughout their investigations. Sebastian Kurz has denied any wrongdoing — as did the administration of the newspaper Österreich, which was alleged to have printed trumped-up opinion polls in return for commercials paid for by the Austrian Finance Ministry.

What now for Austria?

It’s attainable that when the brand new chancellor, Alexander Schallenberg, has overcome his reluctance to tackle the brand new job, he’ll get a style for energy and try to flee the clutches of Sebastian Kurz. Nonetheless, this route would unlikely to vary a lot politically for the European Union or a lot of Austria’s neighbors.

Alexander Schallenberg talking at a podium with microphones

The previous international minister just isn’t prone to change course in direction of the EU

Schallenberg says he’s dedicated to the social gathering’s migration coverage, which implies closed borders and the additional undermining of asylum legal guidelines. The brand new chancellor thinks that the EU’s criticism of infringements of the rule of regulation by Poland and Hungary is exaggerated.  He says it is essential to speak to 1 one other and never about each other.

Austria’s Balkan neighbors, alternatively, are prone to be proud of the brand new man.

As international minister, Schallenberg was all the time a vehement advocate for western Balkan states hoping to affix the EU — extra engaged, maybe, than his former boss Sebastian Kurz.

This text was initially written in German.

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