Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg, who has only been in office for two months, has Thursday night announced to step down as head of government of Austria. Schallenberg’s announcement came hours after his predecessor Sebastian Kurz announced his retirement from politics.
Former Foreign Minister Schallenberg stated on Twitter that according to him, one person should bear the chancellorship and party leadership of ÖVP, Austria’s largest party. Now that Kurz has resigned as party chairman of the conservative ÖVP, that is possible again. In his own words, however, Schallenberg has never had ambitions for that position and that is why he will make his position available as soon as the party has “set the right course”. According to Austrian media the current Interior Minister Karl Nehammer stands a good chance of being elected as ÖVP chairman.
Kurz, 35, resigned as chancellor under pressure from coalition party Greens in October after allegations that he had bought positive media coverage as foreign minister in 2016 with government money. The Austrian Public Prosecutor’s Office raided, among others, the ÖVP party office and the Ministry of Finance of the then Kurz government. In November, at the request of the Public Prosecution Service, the Austrian parliament lifted Kurz’s immunity, paving the way for prosecution. Kurz says he is innocent and wants to defend himself in court.