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PROFILE: Who is Karl Nehammer, Austria’s new chancellor?

He's got a tough situation on his plate with an unsteady governing coalition and the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, but who exactly is Austria's newest chancellor?

Karl Nehammer
Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer addresses a press conference to anounce that he has been named as Austria's new chancellor during a meeting of Austria's conservative People's Party OeVP in Vienna on December 3, 2021. - Austria's People's Party appointed its new leader on December 3, the day after the departure of Sebastian Kurz, who will be replaced by Interior Minister Karl Nehammer who will become chancellor. (Photo by Joe Klamar / AFP)

Born in Vienna, 49-year-old Nehammer rose to the ranks of senior lieutenant but left the military to work in political communications and pursue a career in the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP).

Rising through the ranks as a “loyal soldier”, he worked in several key positions and secured the support of the party in the ÖVP’s stronghold region of Lower Austria.

In early 2020 he became interior minister and his department came in for some criticism for its response to the jihadist terror attack that hit Vienna in November of that year.

The father of two is married to the daughter of a well-known TV presenter and lauded Austrians for following social distancing rules at the beginning of the pandemic, which he observed on extended walks with Fanny, his Bavarian Mountain Hound.

However, public compliance with repeated lockdowns has waned, and more recently Nehammer has been issuing warnings to those protesting lockdowns and mandatory vaccination to remain within the law.

Austrian commentators are hopeful that Nehammer — the country’s third chancellor in as many months — can end the political turbulence that began with a sweeping corruption investigation that led then-chancellor Sebastian Kurz to step down after a raid on his office in October.

Though one of Kurz’s most trusted enforcers, Nehammer was never part of his inner circle that was engulfed in the recent embezzlement and disinformation scandal.

ANALYSIS: How did Austrian politics get so chaotic?

When Kurz announced that he would fully withdraw from politics and his successor as chancellor, Alexander Schallenberg, offered to vacate his office, conservatives quickly settled on Nehammer as the party’s new leader.

Nehammer seized the opportunity to appoint new interior, finance and education ministers, while reiterating that he would “hold the line” when it comes to the ÖVP’s hardline positions on migration and security.

His time as interior minister was not without controversy. After a jihadist who had previously been convicted for attempting to join the Islamic State killed four people in Vienna last year, Nehammer’s ministry was criticised for failing to watch the man after warnings from neighbouring Slovakia that he had been trying to buy ammunition.

Nehammer himself incensed critics by overseeing the deportation of children born in Austria and insisting that Afghans with no right to remain be repatriated even as the Taliban approached the gates of Kabul.

“If deportations are no longer possible due to the restraints by the European human rights convention, we have to think of alternatives,” he said at the time.

ANALYSIS: How the Kurz corruption scandal exposes Austria’s press freedom problems

His Green coalition partners have been among his loudest critics on migration issues but on a personal level they nevertheless describe him as easy to communicate with — and a more reliable partner than Kurz.

Patrick Moreau, Austria specialist at France’s CNRS institute, says that a Nehammer administration may also lead to “less confrontation” within the EU, after the Alpine nation blocked key decisions under Kurz.

Domestically, Nehammer will have to “win back the trust” of the large number of voters who responded to Kurz’s populist platform but are now being courted by the far-right, according to the Der Standard daily.

By Blaise Gauquelin

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POLITICS

How much do Austrian politicians earn as a monthly salary?

Politicians in Austria are getting a 5.3 percent salary increase in 2023 as inflation rises in the country. So how much will they earn?

How much do Austrian politicians earn as a monthly salary?

The rising inflation rate, which is expected to be at 10.6 percent in November, is reflected in the salaries of politicians in Austria, according to the official gazette of the Wiener Zeitung.

According to Austrian law, all salaries are calculated based on the income of the members of the National Council, the Austrian Parliament. Next year, they will receive €9,873 gross per month – €497 more than their salaries in 2022. The values were rounded to the whole euro amount. 

READ ALSO: How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

So, how much are the leading politicians going to earn as a monthly gross salary in 2023?

  • Bundespräsident: the head of the Austrian State (Federal President) will earn €26,701 per month. Alexander Van der Bellen was reelected to the position and should stay in the job for six more years
  • Bundeskanzler: the head of the Austrian government (Chancellor) will earn €23,840 per month. That’s the salary of Karl Nehammer (ÖVP), who is expected to run for reelection in the next national elections set for 2024
  • Vizekanzler: the current vice-chancellor is Werner Kögler (Greens), and he is set to earn €20,979 from 2023
  • NR-Präsident: this refers to the leader of the National Council (Nationalrat, in German), who earns €20,026. Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) holds the position
  • Landeshauptleute: this German word literally means “main persons of the province”. (Land means country, but it actually refers to the bundesländer, the country’s states or provinces). These are the current governors of the Austrian provinces, such as Michael Ludwig (SPÖ), mayor of the city-state of Vienna. They’ll earn €19,072 per month
  • Ministerin/Minister: Ministers of the federal government, including Health and Social Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens), will earn €19,072 every month
  • Landesrätin/-rat: the provincial councillors should earn €17,771 every month from 2023
  • Staatssekretärin/-sekretär: State secretaries, who play the part of Ministers in the provincial level, will earn €17,165
  • Bundesratsmitglieder: a “member of the Bundesrat”, which is the upper house in the Austrian parliament, will earn €4,936 per month

READ ALSO: Explained: How to understand your payslip in Austria

In Austria, hired employees are paid 14 times per year, with extra salaries ahead of summer holidays and Christmas.

Unless the National Council decides against the pay rise, the increase will come into effect on January 1st 2023.

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