Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz Ousted in No-confidence Vote

Kurz pulled the plug on the coalition after a video emerged earlier this month showing the far-right Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache offering favors to a purported Russian investor

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz reacts after Austrian parliament has voted to oust the chancellor and his ministers in Vienna, Austria, May 27, 2019.
AP

The Austrian parliament has voted to oust conservative Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his ministers, paving the way for a caretaker government before a new election in which the young leader and his party could emerge strengthened.

Parliament needed only a majority vote Monday to pass the measure proposed by the opposition Social Democrats to oust Kurz and his Austrian People's Party.

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Kurz pulled the plug on the coalition after a video emerged earlier this month of Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache, in which he appeared to be offering favors to a purported Russian investor. Strache has since resigned as Freedom Party leader. 

That prompted the Social Democrat's motion to remove Kurz and his party from government as well.

A new election is planned for September.

"Parliament will have its say on Monday," Kurz said on Facebook prior to the no-confidence votes. "But at the end of the day the people will decide, namely in September.

"To topple the government a few months before an election is something few people in this country can understand," Kurz told lawmakers before the vote, presenting himself as a force for stability after the scandal that felled his coalition partner. 

The FPO's Herbert Kickl, whom Kurz forced out of his post as interior minister, forecast a different outcome. "This power grab is disgusting... And voters will decide about that, too, in September," he told lawmakers.

FPO lawmakers earlier unanimously agreed to support the SPO motion. Combined, the two parties have a majority of 103 seats in the 183-seat lower house. 

The vote comes a day after Kurz's party emerged strengthened in European elections.

On Sunday, Kurz's center-right Austrian People's Party finished first in Austria in the European elections with 34.9%. The Social Democrats won 23.6% and the Freedom Party took 18.1%.

Defended his government's track record ahead of the no-confidence vote, Kurt told  parliament: "I am very proud and satisfied with the work we have done as a government in the past year and a half."

"Kurz gambled away his chances and, Mr Chancellor, you bear full responsibility," the Social Democrats' (SPO) deputy parliamentary faction head Joerg Leichtfried said in a speech, minutes before his party submitted the motion.

Austria's president must now nominate a new chancellor to put together a caretaker government able to last until the election.