The new Austrian cabinet has begun taking shape, ahead of a swearing-in ceremony, expected on Thursday. The Chairman of the conservative People’s Party, Wilhelm Molterer, has been named the new Vice-Chancellor. Ursula Plassnik, also of the People’s Party, will continue as Foreign Minister. Molterer, a former Minister for Agriculture, will also serve as Finance Minister.
Social Democrat leader Alfred Gusenbauer will be the country’s new Chancellor, with his party leading the ruling coalition. The outgoing Chancellor and People’s Party head, Wolfgang Schuessel, will not join the cabinet. He will step down as leader of the conservatives, with this role passing to Molterer as well. The former Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser has quit. The 38-year old said he will leave politics to join the private sector. He signalled earlier he had no interest in serving under Gusenbauer.
In the meantime, students protested outside parliament in Vienna, accusing the Social Democrats of cheating them to gain power. One of Alfred Gusenbauer’s key campaign promises was the abolition of university tuition fees. But conservatives blocked the pledge as part of a tough coalition deal.