Austrian MPs have voted conservative chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s government out of office, passing a motion of no confidence days after it became a caretaker administration in the aftermath of a video sting scandal.
- Sebastian Kurz, 32, cast himself as a victim in the political crisis engulfing Austria
- Far-right and centre left parties said the chancellor shares blame for a video scandal
- Former vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache was recorded reportedly promising government contracts to a Russian investor
Last week the sting forced former vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) to step down and Mr Kurz to scrap the coalition between their parties.
Mr Strache was secretly recorded reportedly promising a Russian investor government contracts in return for them purchasing a newspaper and supporting his anti-immigrant party.
Mr Kurz hoped to use his position as chancellor during the transition as a springboard for re-election, presenting himself as more of a victim of the political crisis set off by the video than an enabler of it who brought the far right to power.
But with the next parliamentary election expected in September, opposition parties said Mr Kurz must share the blame and voted his minority government down.
“Kurz gambled away his chances and, Mr Chancellor, you bear full responsibility,” the Social Democrats’ (SPO) deputy parliamentary faction head Joerg Leichtfried said in a speech, minutes before his party submitted the motion.
FPO lawmakers earlier unanimously agreed to support the SPO motion.
Combined, the two parties have a majority of 103 seats in the 183-seat lower house.
Heinz-Christian Strache, left, was forced to quit after a video sting, throwing Austria into political crisis. (AP: Ronald Zak)
Austria’s president Dr Alexander Van der Bellen must now nominate a new chancellor to put together a caretaker government able to last until the election.
While he could in principle choose Mr Kurz again, that is highly unlikely.
The move came shortly after Mr Kurz’s People’s Party came out on top in Sunday’s European Parliament election.
‘This power grab is disgusting’
Before the vote, Mr Kurz presented himself to MPs as a force for stability after the scandal that felled his coalition partner.
“To topple the government a few months before an election is something few people in this country can understand,” Mr Kurz said.
Despite the scandal, Mr Kurz’s party won a larger share of the vote in the European ballot than in the parliamentary election of 2017, while the SPO’s share shrank.
Mr Strache resigned from all his political posts after the video footage, which appeared to show him discussing fixing government contracts, was published by two German media outlets.
Vienna prosecutors said they were investigating the sting video “in multiple directions”, but declined to provide further details. Mr Strache denies doing anything illegal.
Austrian president Alexander Van der Bellen, right, must now choose a new chancellor to replace Sebastian Kurz, left. (AP: Michael Gruber)
“Parliament will have its say on Monday,” Mr Kurz said on Facebook prior to the no-confidence votes.
“But at the end of the day the people will decide, namely in September.”
The FPO’s Herbert Kickl, whom Mr Kurz forced out of his post as interior minister, forecast a different outcome.
“This power grab is disgusting … And voters will decide about that, too, in September,” he told MPs.