The new vice-chancellor and leader of the conservative People's Party (ÖVP), Reinhold Mitterlehner, has met with support from the ÖVP and its coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPÖ). The opposition parties were somewhat more sceptical of the seasoned politician.
On Austrian national television channel ORF on Tuesday night, SPÖ faction leader in parliament Andreas Schieder said that Mitterlehner had been conscientious and consensus-oriented in his job as minister for economics and science so far, and he assumed nothing would change. Schieder added that the coalition would present a joint tax reform draft under Mitterlehner.
The tax reform proposals have been a sore point between the coalition partners for months. Former ÖVP leader Michael Spindelegger, who stepped down on Tuesday, cited the reform debate as a primary reason for leaving politics.
Herbert Kickl of the opposition right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) said that he expected "more of the same" with Mitterlehner. After all, the new ÖVP leader had taken part in "all the absurdities of the ÖVP" so far, said Kickl. The government crisis was thus far from over.
The leader of the opposition centre-left Greens, Eva Glawischnig, said that she hoped the change would make the ÖVP a more "modern and open" party. However, she recommended that Mitterlehner make the ministry for science a separate entity again.
After the general elections last September, the coalition put the ministries for economics and science together, with Mitterlehner as the head.
Fischer expects reshuffle
President Heinz Fischer says he expects a cabinet reshuffle on Monday next week. He did not however consider the current political situation to be a "disturbance", said Fischer on Wednesday afternoon. The president also said he welcomed Economics Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner's election as vice-chancellor and leader of the conservative People's Party (ÖVP).
"I think there will be a substantial reshuffle in the government, and that there will be new faces in the SPÖ (Social Democrats) and the ÖVP ranks," said the president. This was the government's chance to renew itself, he added.
The recent events did not endanger the political system, said the president. He indicated that he felt more optimistic about the developments in the next three years now than he had a week ago. There was no reason for new elections, said Fischer.
On the subject of the new ÖVP leader, Fischer said he could understand why Mitterlehner was elected. The ÖVP politician was "competent, capable of communicating and constructive," said the president.
The President of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKÖ), Christoph Leitl of the conservative People's Party (ÖVP), says that the most important thing for the next finance minister is that the new vice-chancellor and ÖVP leader Reinhold Mitterlehner trusts him or her.
"Anyone who has Mitterlehner's trust can be finance minister," said Leitl, who was speaking on the sidelines of the Alpbach political forum in Tyrol province on Wednesday. The head of the economic thinktank Wifo, Karl Aiginger, also said that trust between vice-chancellor and finance minister was paramount.
It was up to the ÖVP leader to put forward a new finance minister, said the WKÖ head. Mitterlehner was "the right man at the head of the ÖVP", Leitl added.