Civil servants sworn into Austrian cabinet
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen has sworn in a new government of technocrats led by the embattled chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, after his coalition with the far-right Freedom party (FPÖ) collapsed.
Centrist parties across Europe are hoping the electorate will draw a connection between the Russian corruption at the heart of the Austrian far right and similar scandals surrounding other populist parties that are expected to prosper in this week’s European elections.
Disgraced former vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache was exposed offering government contracts in exchange for “Hungarian-style” media support.
The FPÖ boss was caught in a video in negotiation with a woman posing as a Russian oligarch’s niece. Subsequent leaks showed that he had followed up on his promises made during the meeting in an Ibiza mansion.
In response, the tacky 1999 pop track “We’re Going to Ibiza!” by the Vengaboys’ is now number one of Austria’s iTunes chart.
Vocalist “Captain Kim” Sasabone told the media: “We are very curious to know if we will be invited to Heinz-Christian Strache’s farewell party.”
The authorities are investigating revelations that emerged in the video.
Kurz will now lead the minority government, promising another general election in September. The new government includes interior minister Eckart Ratz, a former Supreme Court president, defence minister Johann Luif, a deputy chief of staff, and infrastructure minister Valerie Hackl, who led Austria’s air traffic control agency.
The existing foreign minister, Karin Kneissl, was appointed by the FPÖ but is not a party member and retains her position.
The 32-year-old Kurz said Ratz was expected “to do everything to ensure full clarification, as far as the contents of the video rare concerned but also regarding the source of the video”.
“With the swearing-in of an interim government, there is the possibility of conducting the affairs of state calmly and in an orderly way until election day,” said Kurz.
But parliament on Monday is due to vote on a no-confidence motion tabled by the minor leftist party Jetzt.
The new government could be toppled if the centre-left Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the FPÖ back the motion.
SPÖ MP Doris Bures said Kurz needed to take “confidence-building” action if he wanted his government to survive the vote.
“In life, you always have to earn trust,” Bures said. “And the last few days have shown that the chancellor has done nothing to ensure that parliament, which at the end of the day will take this decision, can place this trust in him.”
Heinz-Christian Strache caught on camera in Ibiza. Picture credit: YouTube