Austria swears in new chancellor after Kurz steps aside

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The new Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg is sworn-in by Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen (not in the picture) in the presidential chancellery in Vienna, Austria, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

BERLIN – Austria got a new chancellor on Monday, two days after former leader Sebastian Kurz resigned amid corruption allegations, but the direction of government policy was not expected to change.

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen swore in Alexander Schallenberg, the former foreign minister, as chancellor. Career diplomat Michael Linhart became the country's new foreign minister.

Schallenberg, 52, told reporters later Monday that he would do “everything to refill the trenches” caused by the recent government crisis and also “do everything in my power to serve our beautiful country of Austria.”

He also said he would continue to work closely with the conservative Kurz. Both share a hard line on immigration.

Kurz, 35, announced Saturday that he would step aside to defuse a political crisis triggered by prosecutors’ announcement that he is one of the targets of an investigation into suspected bribery and breach of trust. Kurz’s junior coalition partners, the Greens, had demanded his replacement. Kurz denies any wrongdoing.

Kurz and his close associates are accused of trying to secure his rise to the leadership of his party and the country with the help of manipulated polls and friendly media reports financed with public money. Kurz became the leader of his Austrian People’s Party and then chancellor in 2017.

Although he is stepping down as chancellor, he is keeping his role as party leader and becoming the head of its parliamentary group, keeping him at the heart of Austrian politics while he fights the corruption allegations.

Van der Bellen lauded the two new leaders' experience in representing Austria abroad, but also stressed the responsibility they have in restoring the Austrian people's confidence in the country's government.

“We all expect that the government will go back to work and move things forward together,” Van der Bellen said.

Schallenberg served as the country's foreign minister since 2019, while Linhart was Austria's ambassador to France.

Kurz rejected allegations that he would try to hang on to power, the Austrian news agency APA reported.

“One thing is clear: I'm no shadow chancellor,” Kurz said in a statement. “I will work at high speed in the coming days to make sure there's an orderly transition.”