The Austrian parliament has voted to oust Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his ministers, paving the way for a caretaker government before a new election in September.
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.
Kurz pulled the plug on the coalition after a video emerged earlier this month showing the leader of the Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, in which he appeared to be offering favours to a purported Russian investor.
Kurz defended his government’s track record Monday before the vote.
“I am very proud and satisfied with the work we have done as a government in the past year and a half,” Kurz told parliament.
Strache has since resigned as Freedom Party leader, and his party’s ministers were replaced last week by interim technocrats until new elections can be held.
Kurz called for new elections in September, but ahead of that, the opposition Social Democratic Party brought the no-confidence vote seeking to oust him and his Austrian People’s Party.
“Sebastian Kurz is responsible for the whole situation in which we now find ourselves,” said Social Democratic lawmaker Joerg Leichtfried.
The Freedom Party had said it planned to vote for the Social Democrats’ proposal.
Strong European vote showing
Kurz became Europe’s youngest leader when he was sworn in just before Christmas 2017 at age 31.
Despite the setback, it’s conceivable he could emerge strengthened after the September vote.
On Sunday, his centre-right Austrian People’s Party finished first in Austria in the European elections with 34.9 per cent, a gain of almost eight percentage points compared with 2014, according to provisional results.
The Social Democrats won 23.6 per cent and the Freedom Party took 18.1 per cent. The Freedom Party’s tally in Austria’s 2017 national election, in which it also finished third, was a much stronger 26 per cent.
Kurz was already looking ahead to national elections in the fall, telling parliament that his party would help any caretaker government prepare.
“We will put no stone in the way of a new government,” he said.