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Burgergate: Is the Austrian chancellor doomed after McDonald's outburst?

James Jackson
James Jackson - [email protected]
Burgergate: Is the Austrian chancellor doomed after McDonald's outburst?
A person tucks into a burger. The Austrian's Chancellor's comments around child poverty have landed him in trouble. Photo by Szabo Viktor on Unsplash

In fine Austrian tradition, a leaked video showing Chancellor Karl Nehammer talking about what poor children can eat is continuing to cause the premiere a major political headache.

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Addressing supporters at an expensive wine bar in Salzburg, the Chancellor, of the conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) dismissed left-wing complaints that there are children in Austria going hungry because everyone could afford a €1.70 Hamburger from McDonald’s. He admitted that "it’s not healthy, but it’s cheap”.

Prominent political scientist Natascha Strobl explains why this could be the beginning of the end for the embattled chief who took over as Chancellor after one of the worst political crises in recent history in Austria when Sebastian Kurz was forced to resign amid a corruption probe. Nehammer's strategy was to present himself as a safe pair of hands, but that isn’t working.

“Nehammer tried to calm the waters and present himself as someone who would work with anyone. But he has always slipped up. This isn’t the first time” Strobl told The Local, referring to when Nehammer said that if Austrians didn’t control inflation they would have to choose between alcohol and drugs. “People feel this is the proof that he’s incapable of doing the job.”

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'It's over'

Strobl explains that Nehammer's beleagured centre-right People’s Party is currently polling in third place behind both the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the left-wing Social Democrats (SPÖ). “They’re trying to offer themselves as the respectable conservative party, but it hasn’t stuck. My prediction is that it’s over for Nehammer because people won’t forget as it sparked outrage."

READ ALSO: Austrian chancellor under fire for saying low-income families should eat at McDonalds

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer is leader of the ÖVP.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer is leader of the ÖVP. (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP)

The political storm has not died down, despite Nehammer’s party defending him as saying what everyone think. Strobl explains that, even though many people might share his conservative opinions about parents having a responsibility to feed their own children, it is how he said it that provoked offense, gathered at an expensive wine and cheese event and wagging his finger, with the reference to McDonald’s, which still has some stigma in Austria.

Lef-wing Social Democrat leader Andreas Babler, had sharp criticism for his rival and wrote a public letter to ÖVP supporters urging them to vote for him instead. “Austrians don’t deserve this," he said. "Austrians should be governed by a Chancellor who likes the people here, respects them and doesn’t hold them in contempt.”

Adding to the turmoil of Austrian politics is that the ÖVP government accidentally sent secret plans to launch an investigation into other parties, including their Green coalition partners, to the liberal opposition party NEOS, it emerged on Monday.

The NEOS party leader Beate Meinl-Reisinger called this "a frontal attack on their own coalition partner and a breach of the coalition, that is completely clear"and "an abuse of Parliamentary procedure" that could bring down the unhappy conservative-green alliance

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