Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz ousted in no-confidence vote

Austria's parliament has removed Chancellor Sebastian Kurz from office in a special parliamentary session

Sebastian Kurz
Sebastian Kurz

Austria's parliament has removed Chancellor Sebastian Kurz from office in a special parliamentary session.

His previous coalition ally, the far-right Freedom Party, and the opposition Social Democrats backed the no-confidence motions.

The Freedom Party had become embroiled in a political scandal caused by a secret video, which ended the coalition.

Austria's president named Vice-Chancellor Hartwig Löger as the interim leader.

In a televised address, President Alexander Van der Bellen said the constitution mandated all offices must be filled "even in a transitional period" and asked for some ministers to stay in office until transitional replacements could be found.

Löger a member of Kurz's centre-right People's Party and the country's finance minister, will serve until a new transitional government can be appointed ahead of elections expected in September.

He was appointed vice-chancellor days ago after the previous holder of the office, Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache, was sacked over the secret video.

The president will formally remove the government from office at 11:30am local time on Tuesday.

Kurz, head of the conservative Austrian People's Party, is the first chancellor in post-war Austrian history to lose a confidence vote.

Opposition parties brought forward the two no-confidence votes, one against Kurz and the other against the government.

While the Social Democrats control only 52 of the 183-seat lower house, the Freedom Party, which holds 51 seats, also backed the motions, which needed only a simple majority to pass.

The left-wing environmentalist JETZT party voted to oust the chancellor and his government, although the liberal NEOS party reportedly backed Kurz in a bid to avoid instability.

Kurz's surprise strong showing in Sunday's European Union elections, with a projected 35% of the vote, was not enough to save him.

Speaking after the confidence vote, Kurz pledged to support an interim government and insisted he and the People's Party had "guaranteed stability" in Austria.

He has repeatedly promoted himself as a bastion of stability amid the political turmoil.

The parties ranged against Kurz appeared to believe he should shoulder some of the blame for the fall of the coalition.

The Social Democrats say he should never have allied himself with the Freedom Party in the first place. The Freedom Party is still smarting from having had Kurz replace all of its ministers with technocrats.

It has widely been labelled "Ibiza-gate", after the Spanish island where the video was recorded.

It was secretly filmed in 2017 just weeks before the election which saw both the Freedom Party and Chancellor Kurz's party perform well.

In the footage, released by German media, Freedom Party leader and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache can be seen relaxing and drinking for hours at a villa with Freedom Party parliament group leader Johann Gudenus, while they meet a woman, purported to be the niece of a Russian oligarch.

Strache appears to propose offering her public contracts if she buys a large stake in the Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung, and makes it support the Freedom Party.

He is heard suggesting that a number of journalists would have to be "pushed" from the newspaper, and that he wants to "build a media landscape like [Viktor] Orban," referring to Hungary's nationalist leader.

Strache stood down hours after the video emerged.

President Van der Bellen then fired Freedom Party Interior Minister Herbert Kickl at the request of Kurz.

The move prompted the Freedom Party's other ministers to resign in solidarity.

Despite the scandal, Austrian news agency APA reports that Strache could possibly take a seat in the European parliament.

The former vice-chancellor had remained at the bottom of his party's election list for the European elections after his resignation. But under Austrian law he could take one of Freedom Party's predicted three seats if enough people supported him as a candidate.

It is unclear if Strache will take a seat.

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