What are Austria’s media saying about the political crisis?

Austria's new Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg
Austria's new Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP
The resignation of Sebastian Kurz as Chancellor sent shockwaves across the federal government at the weekend. Here's a press review of how the media in Austria and further afield are reporting on the news.

Sebastian Kurz resigned from the role as Austria’s Chancellor late on Saturday after being implicated in a corruption scandal, and has been replaced by close ally Alexander Schallenberg.

Wiener Zeitung

On Tuesday, the Wiener Zeitung published an analysis piece of how the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Greens could win back the trust of the public, citing the expansion of childcare as an example. This is partly because in texts revealed during the corruption probe, Kurz appeared to try and sabotage more funding for childcare to prevent party rival and former leader Reinhold Mitterlehner from getting the credit.

In another article about Schallenberg, the Wiener Zeitung predicts a change in government media policy as “Schallenberg attaches more importance to what is disseminated in quality newspapers and by news channels”.

“He is the “impeccable” figure that the Greens have wished for the office of Federal Chancellor,” editor Thomas Seifert writes, pointing to the former Foreign Minister’s background as a “cosmopolitan international” and his relatively recent foray into politics.

Furthermore, the publication expects a “calm” approach to politics from Schallenberg.

The Wiener Zeitung is one of the oldest newspapers in the world and is owned by the Austrian government. The publication typically has a liberal political orientation.

Der Standard

In Der Standard, political and media advisor Peter Plaikner claims the days of a strong ÖVP are over and blames the party’s support of Kurz for the downfall. He draws a link between the ÖVP and Germany’s CDU.

Plaikner references Günther Platter, the ÖVP Governor of Tyrol, who on Thursday publicly announced all ÖVP governors were “one hundred percent behind Sebastian Kurz” as an example of the party’s deterioration. Two days later, Kurz had resigned, and over the weekend Platter publicly distanced himself from the ex-chancellor.

He ends the comment piece likening the ÖVP to a parachutist fumbling for their ripcord, but says that Schallenberg’s main challenge is Kurz’s continued leadership.

Additionally, an opinion piece on the ÖVP leadership crisis states Kurz is “politically burned” and the party is facing an existential crisis due to distrust from voters.

“It can happen at any time that the judiciary’s locked files become public. And Kurz is burdened for a long time, politically self-burned,” wrote Thomas Mayer.

Der Standard is a left-leaning national publication and one of Austria’s best-selling newspapers. It regularly cooperates with The New York Times.

Kronen Zeitung

“What now, Sebastian Kurz?” asked the outlet commonly known as the Krone, Austria’s largest newspaper with a right-wing focus.

It wondered how Kurz would cope with the shock of sitting among his 182 colleagues as a member of parliament, after years becoming a “master of visuals in staged appearances with carefully prepared words”. It also raised the question of the two of Kurz’s employees who are also accused in the probe, and whether they would continue to work with Schallenberg.

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Around the world

Austria does not regularly make headlines beyond its borders, but the ongoing scandal has caught the attention of the world’s press.

In neighbouring Switzerland, Watson reports on the fall of “child prodigy” Kurz, saying his “hunger for power” was his downfall.

Germany’s Die Presse takes a closer look at the new Schallenberg government and says “the Kurz era is over, at least for the time being”, clearly sceptical that the ex-chancellor has truly taken a step back.

In English-speaking media, the Guardian describes Kurz’s departure as a further blow to Europe’s centre-right political parties after Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) recently suffered its worst election result. At the start of October, the CDU had declared: “We need a German Sebastian Kurz.”

The New York Times says Austria’s political scandal has “left Europe’s conservatives in need of a new path”.

According to the left-wing US publication: “It comes at a time when Europe’s political landscape looks ever more fragmented and the once-mighty traditional parties of the center-left and center-right have lost ground to a host of new political actors, not least on the extremes.” 

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