Austrian far-right party likely to back motion to oust chancellor

Austrian politicians are likely to sack the chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, in a no-confidence vote after the leader of the far-right Freedom party (FPO) indicated it would probably vote against him.

Kurz’s conservatives came out on top in Sunday’s European parliament elections despite a video-sting scandal a week ago involving the FPO leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, which brought down their coalition government. Strache then resigned from all his political posts.

Kurz now heads a caretaker administration in Vienna that he hopes to use as a springboard to re-election. Departing FPO ministers have been replaced with civil servants.

With the next parliamentary election expected in September, however, opposition parties said Kurz must share the blame for the political crisis set off by the footage of Strache. Two no-confidence motions against Kurz and his government were planned in the Austrian parliament later on Monday.

The new FPO leader, Norbert Hofer, told the APA news agency that his party was likely to support a no-confidence motion against the whole government submitted by the Social Democrats. If that happened, Austria’s president would nominate a new chancellor.

While MPs decided how they would vote in the afternoon session, Vienna prosecutors said they were investigating “in multiple directions” in relation to the sting video, but declined to provide further details.

In the European elections, voters gave Kurz’s People’s party a larger share of support than in the 2017 parliamentary election, rather than punishing it for governing with the scandal-ridden FPO for 17 months.

Kurz has presented himself as a victim of the current political crisis rather than a midwife to it.