Sebastian Kurz: No-confidence vote removes Austria's chancellor

Far-right and centre-left parties force Sebastian Kurz from office after his government coalition imploded in scandal.

    Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has been removed from office in a vote of no confidence among legislators, despite his centre-right Austrian People's Party performing well in European elections last weekend.

    It is the latest twist in a political crisis that has wracked Austria since the publication of a video sting earlier this month, in which far-right leaders of Kurz's former government coalition allies were caught offering political favours to a young woman they believed to be the niece of a wealthy Russian oligarch, and advising her how to increase Russia's influence in Austria. 

    As the scandal broke, Kurz sacked Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the Freedom Party (FPO), the video's leading protagonist. The other FPO ministers walked out and Kurz replaced them with technocrats.


    "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 ahead of Monday's vote.

    Under his coalition, the government passed numerous measures to crack down on immigration, such as tightening access to apprenticeships for asylum-seekers and effectively cutting child benefits for foreigners who work in Austria but whose children live in poorer countries.

    It also vaunted its agenda of tax cuts and raised the maximum working day to 12 hours, in what was seen as a concession to businesses.

    Playing politics

    A day is a long time in Austrian politics, with 32-year-old Kurz going from a vote winner to a vote loser in less than 24 hours.

    Kurz's conservatives cleaned up at the European Parliament elections, finishing first with 34.9 percent of the vote from a 59 percent turnout, it was announced on Sunday night. The FPO, meanwhile, fell to 17 percent.

    But Monday's parliamentary vote was brought by the minority opposition Social Democratic party, which said Kurz must share the blame for the state of Austria's politics. When the FPO announced it would support the vote, having been kicked out of government, Kurz's fate was sealed.

    He remains popular, however, and is likely to emerge strengthened as FPO support collapses.

    "Mr Kurz might end up having the last laugh," said Al Jazeera's Dominic Kane, reporting from Vienna. "The man who lost this vote today might end up a winner at new elections, and the parties who won this vote today might end up as the losers in the long run."

    Austria's president must now appoint a caretaker government until the next election, expected in September.

    "Parliament will have its say on Monday," Kurz said on Facebook prior to the no-confidence vote. "But at the end of the day, the people will decide, namely in September."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies