Austria. Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel are stepping down

Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg, who took over from Sebastian Kurz in October, announced on Thursday that he was resigning from office. Following the Austrian chancellor, Gernot Bluemel, the federal minister of finance and head of the Viennese structures of the Austrian People’s Party (OeVP), resigned from all his positions. On Thursday morning Kurz himself, the leader of OeVP, also announced his complete withdrawal from politics.

Alexander Schallenberg, who was chancellor since October 11, announced Thursday night that he would resign “as soon as the party had set a suitable course”. “It is not and never was my intention to take over the leadership of the Austrian People’s Party (OeVP). I am convinced that both offices – the head of government and the leader of the party with the greatest support in Austria – should be quickly taken over by one person” – wrote Schallenberg in statement. He added that he was ready to step down from office “in a very difficult phase for the federal government and the People’s Party”.

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Schallenberg was sworn in as chancellor by President Alexander Van der Bellow two days after Sebastian Kurz resigned as chief in connection with a corruption investigation involving him and his closest associates. Before being appointed chancellor, Schallenberg was the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Schallenberg did not mention in a statement whether he would like to return to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but underlined his “great respect” for Kurz for his decision to resign from all political positions.

Chancellor Schallenberg has announced his resignationOLIVIER HOSLET / PAP / EPA

The shortest chancellor’s term in the history of Austria

“With 52 days in this position, Schallenberg will be the shortest-serving chancellor in history,” points out Vienna Online and points out that from the outset, Schallenberg was expected to be a deputy rather than a true successor to Kurz. “Now that he has decided to say goodbye to politics, he has confirmed it. Schallenberg did not want to become party leader, but it was never a viable option for the party. And the party leader is also supposed to be the head of government, so Schallenberg’s time is over” – sums up Vienna Online .

Already in the morning on Thursday, the daily estimated “Kronen Zeitung” that the departure of Kurz, who took over the party leadership in 2017, would lead to reshuffles in the government. Schallenberg’s departure was assumed as the most likely scenario. On the other hand, Karl Nehammer, the current head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is appointed the new head of OeVP and the chancellor.

The Minister of Finance resigns

On Thursday evening, the federal finance minister, 40-year-old Gernot Bluemel, also resigned, announcing his resignation “from all functions with immediate effect” – not only from his position in the government, but also from the position of head of OeVP structures in Vienna, where he will be replaced temporarily Karl Mahrer, member of the National Council – learns the Kurier portal. Bluemel announced that he was resigning “of his own free will”. He explained that there were two main reasons for his decision. The first is family reasons – on September 30 he became a father for the second time. The second reason is one of Kurz’s closest associates.

According to Kurier, Bluemel made the decision in a short time, “even Bluemel’s closest associates found out about his resignation only on Thursday evening”. He has not informed about further plans yet. “Bluemel told his relatives that there is no plan B for now. However, he excludes a longer break” – the courier learned.

In a video posted on Facebook, Bluemel explained the reasons for his departure from politics: “This year was extremely difficult and intense, not only professionally and politically, but also for my family.” He added that he had been receiving “death threats”. He stressed that Kurz’s decision on Thursday was for him “the final impulse” in making his decision, and the several years of cooperation with the former chancellor “was a great honor”.

Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian KurzCHRISTIAN BRUNA / PAP / EPA

Against Bluemel, as well as against Kurz, the prosecutor’s office is under investigation for suspected corruption. It is not known yet who will become the new finance minister. It is also not known yet when and in what form the national OeVP convention will be held, at which the future party leader will be elected.

Sebastian Kurz leaves politics

On Thursday morning, Sebastian Kurz confirmed at a press conference in Vienna on Thursday that he is withdrawing from politics completely and that he wants to devote more time to his family after the birth of his son. – Looking back on this period in my life, I feel grateful. I think I can consider myself very happy – said Kurz. He recalled his 10 years in Austrian politics as State Secretary, Foreign Minister and Federal Chancellor. – I always did my best and tried everything – emphasized Kurz.

– Politics is an emotional roller-coaster. On the one hand, it’s great when you can change something. At the same time, you have to make many decisions every day, under constant surveillance and pressure. Working intensively, there was no time for other things – emphasized Kurz, adding that “some matters were neglected, especially one’s own family”. When his son Konstantin was born, Kurz realized that “there are also beautiful things besides politics” and this event “trumped everything else”, even with two victories in the 2017 and 2019 elections.

“For the former Chancellor Kurz, there will most likely be a good job in the private sector,” the Austrian media believe.

Main photo source: OLIVIER HOSLET / PAP / EPA

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