Austrian Chancellor Ousted After No-Confidence Vote

Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, the world’s former youngest leader was ousted from office this month following a no-confidence vote. The no-confidence vote was triggered by the opposition party, the Social Democrats (SPO), causing the dissolution of the ruling coalition composed of Kurz’s own People’s Party (OVP) and the right wing Freedom Party (FPO). The collapse of the ruling coalition followed the release of an incriminating video featuring FPO leader and Vice Chancellor, Heinz Christian Strache. In the video, now dubbed the Ibiza affair, Strache was offering public contracts to who he believed was the niece of a powerful Russian oligarch. The public contracts were for a controlling stake in the Austrian newspaper, Kronen Zeitung, which Strache insists strongly supports the FPO. Following the release of the video tape by German media, Strache immediately stepped down as Vice Chancellor. Kurz responded to the scandal by demanding transparency and clarification from FPO ministers and singled out Health Minister Herbert Kickl, who ahd refused to stepdown from his position. After Kickl was eventually removed by Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, the remaining FPO ministers resigned in a show of party solidarity. The SPO were able to take advantage of a splintered ruling coalition and motioned for the no-confidence vote.

Following the dissolution of the ruling coalition, Kurz moved to quickly replace the resigned FPO ministers with technocrats claiming that the OVP could still maintain stability for Austria. However, the opposing SPO were able to garner support from the now disenfranchised FPO to control enough seats to win a no-confidence vote. Following the vote, Kurz and his newly assigned technocrat ministers were removed from office earlier this week. Vice Chancellor Hartwig Loger, has been announced as interim leader with a transitional government set to be appointed ahead of the September elections. Although a complete upheaval has occurred in parliament, President Van der Bellen claimed that the transitional government can maintain stability by relying on the constitution.

Ironically, the same week that Kurz and the OVP were removed from government, was the same week that they won the European elections. The European elections elect 751 Members of the European Parliament representing the 28 member states of the EU. The OVP led by Kurz secured over 34% of the European elections vote where the SPO only gained 23%. Across Europe the elections saw the erosion of support for centre left and centre right mainstream parties, to Green parties and right wing parties. Despite the timely release of the Ibiza affair, which was recorded in 2017 but only released a week prior to European elections, the SPO were not able to secure a win nor undermine support for the OVP or Kurz. Kurz has maintained popularity and credibility across Austria showcased by the European elections, and will likely be able to maneuver his way back to power ahead of national elections scheduled this fall.