Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz loses no-confidence motion

Austria's parliament has voted to oust Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his ministers, paving the way for a caretaker government before a new election in September.

Despite the setback, Kurz is buoyed by strong showing in EU vote ahead of September election

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who ascended to power at age 31, will look to regroup ahead of a September election, after parliament voted Monday to oust him and his ministers. (REUTERS)

The Austrian parliament has voted to oust Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his ministers, paving the way for a caretaker government before a new election in September.

Parliament needed only a majority vote Monday to pass the measure proposed by the opposition Social Democrats to oust Kurz and his Austrian People's Party.

Kurz pulled the plug on the coalition after a video emerged earlier this month showing the leader of the Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, in which he appeared to be offering favours to a purported Russian investor.

Strache has since resigned as Freedom Party leader, and his party's ministers were replaced last week by interim technocrats until new elections can be held.

Kurz called for new elections in September, but ahead of that, the opposition Social Democratic Party brought the no-confidence vote seeking to oust him and his Austrian People's Party.

"Sebastian Kurz is responsible for the whole situation in which we now find ourselves," said Social Democratic lawmaker Joerg Leichtfried.

The Freedom Party had said it planned to vote for the Social Democrats' proposal.

Strong European vote showing

Kurz, 32, became Europe's youngest leader when he was sworn in just before Christmas 2017.

No-confidence votes are common in Austrian politics, but this is the first one to have succeeded in modern history. It also makes Kurz the shortest-serving chancellor since 1945 with 525 days in office, according to the Austria Press Agency.

Despite the setback, it's conceivable he could emerge strengthened after the September vote.

On Sunday, his centre-right Austrian People's Party finished first in Austria in the European elections with 34.9 per cent, a gain of almost eight percentage points compared with 2014, according to provisional results.

The Social Democrats won 23.6 per cent and the Freedom Party took 18.1 per cent. The Freedom Party's tally in Austria's 2017 national election, in which it also finished third, was a much stronger 26 per cent.

Kurz was already looking ahead to national elections in the fall, telling parliament that his party would help any caretaker government prepare.

"We will put no stone in the way of a new government," he said.

Kurz defended his government's track record Monday before the vote.

"I am very proud and satisfied with the work we have done as a government in the past year and a half," Kurz told parliament.

'Irresponsible power grab'

He remained composed Monday amid withering criticism from some lawmakers.

Herbert Kickl, a Freedom Party lawmaker who served as interior minister in the coalition, accused Kurz of using the Strache video as a chance to consolidate his own power.

"He made the entire Freedom Party responsible for the wrong actions of two people," Kickl told parliament. "He tried to take advantage of a difficult situation of a government partner. He tried to enlarge his own power base."

Social Democrat Leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner, whose party brought the no-confidence vote, issued the same charge.

"This is a shameless, unrestrained and irresponsible power grab, this is what we are witnessing," she said. "But the power in our country is based on the people, and not you."

It was not immediately clear when the Austrian president would appoint the new government.


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