BERLIN: Austria received a new chancellor on Monday, two days after former leader Sebastian Kurz resigned amid allegations of corruption, but government policy was not expected to change direction.
Austrian President Alexander Van der Belen sworn in as chancellor to former foreign minister Alexander Schalenberg. Career diplomat Michael Linhart became the country’s new foreign minister.
Schalenberg, 52, told reporters later on Monday that he would do “everything to refill the trenches” caused by the recent government crisis and “will do everything in my power to serve our beautiful country of Austria.” “
He also said that he would continue to work closely with the conservative Kurz. Both share a hard line on immigration.
Kurz, 35, announced on Saturday that he would step down to address the political crisis triggered by prosecutors’ announcement that he is one of the targets of the investigation into suspected bribery and breach of trust. His replacement was sought by Kurz’s junior coalition partners, the Greens. Kurz denies any wrongdoing.
Kurz and his close associates are accused of trying to secure their rise to the leadership of their party and country with the help of public money-funded elections and friendly media reports. Kurz became leader and then chancellor of his Austrian People’s Party in 2017.
Although he is stepping down as chancellor, he continues his role as party leader and becomes the head of its parliamentary group, placing him at the center of Austrian politics as he fights corruption charges.
Van der Bellen appreciated the experience of the two new leaders in representing Austria abroad, but also emphasized the responsibility of restoring Austrians’ confidence in the country’s government.
“We all hope that the government will go back to work and move things forward together,” van der Belen said.
Schalenberg served as the country’s foreign minister since 2019, while Linhart was Austria’s ambassador to France.
Kurz rejected the allegations that he would try to stay in power, Austrian news agency APA reported.
“One thing is clear: I am no shadow chancellor,” Kurz said in a statement. “I will work at a high speed in the coming days to ensure that there is a systematic change.”