Austrian Chancellor Kurz Ousted In No-Confidence Vote

The right-wing Chancellor of Austria, Sebastian Kurz, was just ousted in a no-confidence vote according to a report:

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria and his caretaker government were ousted from power on Monday with a no-confidence vote in Parliament as the ramifications of a secretly filmed video plunged the once-stable central European country further into political chaos.

Mr. Kurz, 32, became the first Austrian leader in more than seven decades to be removed from power by his fellow lawmakers. The action came despite a gain of eight percentage points of popular support for Mr. Kurz’s conservative People’s Party in the European Parliament elections.

It has been a turbulent week for Austrian politics. Mr. Kurz’s coalition government with the far-right Freedom Party collapsed after the party’s leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, resigned as vice chancellor when a video emerged that showed him promising government contracts to a woman claiming to be a wealthy Russian in exchange for financial support.

The meeting, which was filmed in 2017 without Mr. Strache’s knowledge, appears to have been a setup. But it nonetheless raised questions about the Freedom Party’s ethics, given their leader’s apparent willingness to trade political favors for Russian black money. Prosecutors in Vienna said on Monday that they had opened an investigation into who was behind the video.

After Mr. Strache resigned, Mr. Kurz fired Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, a leading Freedom Party member, prompting the remaining far-right ministers to quit in protest. The chancellor called for a snap election in September and replaced the four ministers with technocrats until a new government could be voted into power.

But opposition leaders accused Mr. Kurz of abusing their trust in his government by failing to work with them in organizing his interim government and by refusing to apologize for his role in the political chaos.

“You need to earn trust,” Pamela Rendi-Wagner, the leader of the Socialist Party, told lawmakers before calling for the confidence vote. “Cooperation and dialogue are the ground basis for trust, and trust is required for a majority in Parliament,” she said. “Mr. Chancellor, you and your government do not enjoy our trust.”

Mr. Kurz had defended his recent actions as necessary and said they had been made in consultation with President Alexander van der Bellen, who will now be called to name an interim chancellor who will govern until September. “To want to oust the whole government, a few weeks before an election, that is something that I don’t think anyone in this country can understand,” Mr. Kurz said to resounding applause from lawmakers from his party.

Austrian lawmakers use no-confidence votes as a form of protest, but only Mr. Kurz has been removed from office in one. Since the republic was founded after World War II, 185 previous votes have been brought against chancellors or their ministers; Mr. Strache faced one, and Mr. Kickl six. (source, source)

This is a developing story. We will be watching this.

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