Austrian minister to be 3rd person to serve as chancellor this year

Immigration hardliner Karl Nehammer will be sworn in as Austrian chancellor on Monday, the presidency said, after being thrust into leadership by tumult among his conservative People’s Party following the resignation of fallen star Sebastian Kurz.

Nehammer, 49, succeeded Kurz as party chief on Friday and will lead the coalition government with the Greens.

He takes over a party in disarray since Kurz stepped down as chancellor in October after being placed under criminal investigation on suspicion of corruption offences. Kurz denies wrongdoing.

President Alexander Van der Bellen will swear in Nehammer, who is now interior minister, at Monday’s ceremony, the presidency said in a statement on Saturday.

Nehammer, a former soldier and communications adviser, has said he plans to maintain the central law-and-order themes of Kurz’s two stints as chancellor since 2017.

He also said fighting the COVID-19 pandemic would be a top priority. Austria is in lockdown as authorities seek to ease pressure on hospitals dealing with high infection rates.

Kurz exiting politics

Kurz’s resignation as party leader on Thursday sent shockwaves through the party and prompted two of his closest allies, current Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and Finance Minister Gernot Blümel, to say they, too, would step down.

Schallenberg had been in the job for less than two months.

Blümel is under investigation in a separate corruption case and also denies wrongdoing. Both he and Kurz said that having newborn children had motivated their decisions.

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