Karl Nehammer sworn in as Chancellor in Vienna | Currently Europe | DW

Karl Nehammer is the new head of government in Austria. The previous Minister of the Interior was sworn in by Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen. He succeeds Alexander Schallenberg, who takes up his post as Foreign Minister again after only two months at the helm.

Nehammer is the fifth Federal Chancellor of Austria since 2017, at the head of a coalition or an expert government. Hartwig Löger also served as Managing Chancellor for a few days in 2019. Nehammer is known as an advocate of a strictly restrictive course on migration: at the beginning of the year he had three well-integrated schoolgirls deported to Georgia and Armenia.

Great staff rogue

The appointment of the 49-year-old was accompanied by a cabinet reshuffle. The new finance minister is Magnus Brunner, previously State Secretary in the Ministry of the Environment. The university rector Martin Polaschek was appointed minister of education. Gerhard Karner from ÖVP Lower Austria takes over the Ministry of the Interior. The trigger for the personnel damage was the resignation of Sebastian Kurz as ÖVP boss and his withdrawal from politics. Investigations against him on suspicion of breach of trust, bribery and corruption had become public in the fall. The former chancellor denies the allegations.

Nehammer next to the then Federal Chancellor Schallenberg and Health Minister Mückstein (from left to right)

Nehammer – at the same time designated party leader of the conservative ÖVP – takes office under difficult circumstances. The coalition of the ÖVP and the Greens, which has been in power since 2020, is on shaky feet due to numerous conflicts. The government partners were also not always in agreement when it came to combating the massive fourth wave of the corona pandemic. The country is currently in a lockdown. Trade and above all tourism fear that, contrary to the previous announcement, the exit restrictions will at least partially be extended beyond December 13th. A decision should be made in the coming days.

“Don’t raise false expectations”

Van der Bellen took the opportunity to admonish the new government in its corona policy to have a sense of reality. “We shouldn’t arouse false expectations and not promise anything that later turns out to be unsustainable.” The head of state advocated pouring “pure wine” for the population. A few dozen opponents of the Corona measures protested loudly in front of the presidential office.

The general political weather situation has meanwhile changed to the disadvantage of the ÖVP. Until a few months ago, the Conservatives were way ahead in polls. The latest surveys show that the social democratic SPÖ has overtaken the ÖVP for the first time in years. The calls from the opposition for new elections are getting louder.

jj/rb (dpa, rtr)

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