The Minister of the Interior, Karl Nehammer, was sworn in on Monday as Chancellor of Austria, with the aim of ending the turmoil caused after the resignation of the young conservative politician Sebastián Kurz due to accusations of corruption.
The new Conservative leader, 49, was sworn in shortly after 1:00 p.m. (12:00 GMT) before President Alexander Van der Bellen in Vienna in a televised ceremony.
His predecessor Alexander Schallenberg, who held the post on an interim basis, resigned on Thursday, a few hours after former Chancellor Sebastián Kurz announced that he is leaving politics and resigning as chair of the ÖVP party following the corruption scandal that frustrated his government.
On Friday, the official formation nominated Nehammer, 49, to assume the leadership of the formation and the position of chancellor. Nehammer’s first act was a cabinet restructuring, appointing Schallenberg to his former position as foreign minister and changing the head of the Finance, Home Affairs and Education portfolios. With the arrival of Nehammer to the chancellery, his formation hopes that the governing coalition, also composed of the Green Party, will close the era of Kurz.
– The challenge of a lack of refinement –
The scandal that ended Kurz’s career – who took office at the age of 31 in 2017, becoming the world’s youngest elected government leader – erupted in early October. The prosecution raided his office and several official headquarters, including the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Finance, in the framework of an investigation into allegations that he used public money by exchanging advertising space for praiseworthy articles and favorable polls.
Kurz always denied the facts and said that he hopes to prove his innocence in court, but last week he announced that he wanted to start “a new chapter”, and said he was “exhausted” by the recent accusations.
In his political career, Kurz took control of his party in 2017 and won two elections. His tough stances on immigration – which Nehammer also advocates – were a key factor. After the change of cabinet, Nehammer must focus on organizing the exit from the current confinement due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which should take place by the weekend.
The country – of 8.9 million inhabitants – decided in November to confine the unvaccinated to face the growing wave of COVID-19 infections that hit Europe, distinguishing itself from the strategy of other EU countries. Later, he expanded the restrictions on those vaccinated, also affecting shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues, although exempting schools.
He also distanced himself from the European bloc with the announcement of a mandatory vaccination policy scheduled for 2022. From the Interior Ministry, Nehammer, who is characterized by a three-day beard and gray-haired temples, issued severe warnings to protesters who since three weeks ago they took to the streets to protest against the measures against the coronavirus.
(with information from AFP)
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