Austria's youthful leader Kurz ousted as scandal engulfs ex-ally

The development comes after a video emerged showing the leader of a coalition partner appear to offer government contracts to a purported Russian investor.
Image: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz attends a session of the Parliament in Vienna
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz attends a session of the Parliament on Monday.Leonhard Foeger / Reuters

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Associated Press

VIENNA — Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was ousted by parliament in a no-confidence vote Monday, paving the way for a new election.

The young leader defiantly vowed that he and his center-right People's Party would return to power with increased strength.

The vote capped a week of turmoil at the top in Austria that started when Kurz pulled the plug on his coalition with the far-right Freedom Party after a video emerged showing that party's leader appearing to offer lucrative government contracts to a purported Russian investor.

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

A new election is already planned for September, and President Alexander Van der Bellen now needs to appoint a caretaker government to serve until then.

Less than three hours after losing his job, Kurz appeared before a cheering crowd outside party offices in Vienna, pledging that "the changes that we began two years ago will not end today." He said he looked forward to helping the interim government ensure stability in the coming months, and would fight to win back his position.

"In the end the people will decide in September, and I'm happy about that," he said to chants from the crowd of "Chancellor Kurz."

No-confidence votes are common in Austrian politics, but this is the first one to have succeeded in its modern history. The result makes Kurz the shortest-serving chancellor since 1945 with 525 days in office, according to the Austria Press Agency.

Kurz remains popular and his center-right party finished first in Sunday's European Parliament election with 34.9 percent support, a gain of almost 8 percentage points over 2014.

The 32-year-old became Europe's youngest leader when he was sworn in just before Christmas 2017. He told the body that he was "proud and satisfied with the work we have done as a government in the past year and a half" and pledged to work constructively with the caretaker government.

"We will certainly not put any stones on the path of the next government," he said. "We will support them as much as possible."