Austrian president dismisses Kurz govt, seeks interim leader

International

New Austrian Chancellor Hartwig Loeger, left, is sworn in by Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, right, during an inauguration ceremony at Hofburg palace in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, May 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

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VIENNA (AP) — Austria’s president formally dissolved the country’s government Tuesday, a day after Chancellor Sebastian Kurz lost a no-confidence vote in parliament.

President Alexander Van der Bellen’s move followed more than a week of turmoil that began with the publication of a video showing a coalition figure, the leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, appearing to offer lucrative government contracts to a purported Russian investor. That prompted Kurz to pull the plug on the governing coalition between his right-wing People’s Party and the Freedom Party and call for a new national election.

During an acrimonious session Monday in parliament, the Freedom Party and the opposition Social Democrats accused Kurz of seeking to consolidate power while he and his People’s Party are riding high in the polls. Both parties then voted in favor of a no-confidence motion against Kurz’s government.

Buoyed by a strong first-place showing in the European election on Sunday, Kurz vowed not to be gone for long, suggesting that his party would emerge even stronger in Austria’s national election in September.

“In the end, the people will decide in September, and I’m happy about that,” he told a cheering crowd in Vienna.

Van der Bellen needs to appoint a caretaker government to run the country until the national election, and has said he expects to do that in the next week. He plans to hold talks with all parties to find suitable candidates. Until that government is in place, Van der Bellen temporarily kept the same Cabinet ministers in place.

Kurz’s deputy chancellor, Finance Minister Hartwig Loeger, is taking over the duties of chancellor until the interim government is appointed.

Van der Bellen took the occasion to admonish all parties to tone down their rhetoric and engage in constructive dialogue.

“I think that the current situation shows how important conversations are,” he said.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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