Kurz – at age 35 one of Europe’s youngest leaders and long celebrated as a “whizz kid” — announced late Saturday that he was stepping down as chancellor, bowing to pressure to resign after he was implicated in a corruption scandal.
Saying he wanted to “make space to prevent chaos,” the conservative — who has headed two governments over the last four years — has suggested foreign minister Schallenberg to take over the chancellery.
The 52-year-old diplomat met President Alexander Van der Bellen on Sunday following a talk with Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler of the Greens.
In brief comments before meeting the president, Schallenberg spoke of an “enormously challenging task and time, not easy for any of us”.
“But I think we are showing an incredible degree of responsibility for this country,” he told reporters.
Kogler, who in turn was seeing Van der Bellen, told reporters he had a “good, trustful” meeting with Schallenberg earlier in the day.
“Above all, I am pleased that there is the possibility of opening a new chapter in the government coalition work,” the 59-year-old Greens veteran said.
Kogler had already indicated late Saturday that his party would support Schallenberg to keep the conservative-Greens coalition in government.
Pressure on Kurz to resign, including from the Greens, started after prosecutors on Wednesday raided several locations linked to his People’s Party (OeVP).
They announced that Kurz and nine other individuals were under investigation over claims that government money was used between 2016 and 2018 in a corrupt deal to ensure positive media coverage.
Kurz has denied any wrongdoing, reiterating on Saturday that allegations against him were “false” and that he would seek to clear up the matter while he continues as party leader and as a lawmaker in parliament.
Analyst Thomas Hofer said Kurz would, for now, continue to be “the most influential person in the People’s Party on the national stage”.
“In Kurz’ view, Schallenberg is a place holder… Kurz made his move in such a way that he still is in control of the party and the government team on his side,” Hofer told AFP.
manipulated opinion polls that served an exclusively party-political interest”.