BREAKING NEWS

Austrian far right crashes out of government as president backs Kurz

Austrian far right crashes out of government as president backs Kurz
Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and President Alexander Van der Bellen deliver a news conference at the presidential office at Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria, May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger -
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LEONHARD FOEGER(Reuters)
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By Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) – The far-right Freedom Party (FPO) quit Austria’s coalition government on Tuesday after the president sided with conservative chancellor Sebastian Kurz and sacked the hardline FPO interior minister.

Kurz’s own immediate fate was uncertain, however, after a legislator said he would propose a motion of no-confidence, which the FPO said it would back.

President Alexander Van der Bellen approved Kurz’s request to dismiss Interior Minister Herbert Kickl over a scandal that had already forced out FPO leader and vice chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache.

The president’s decision prompted the other ministers from the FPO to tender resignations, which he accepted. Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, an independent picked by the FPO, stayed on.

The blood-letting follows a video sting that brought Strache down over the weekend.

It is unclear whether the transitional government being put in place until a snap election in September will win the backing of parliament, including a now-furious FPO.

“There is no cause for concern,” Van der Bellen told a joint news conference with Kurz. “Times like these reveal the elegance, the beauty of the Austrian constitution.”

He asked Kurz to appoint “experts” to replace the departing FPO ministers, and Kurz said he would submit a list of civil servants’ names by Tuesday evening.

Lawmaker Peter Pilz confirmed earlier that he would put forward a motion of no confidence in Kurz at a special session of parliament on Monday, the day after European parliament elections. But larger parties’ positions remained unclear.

Asked if parties in parliament agreed to the plan for a transitional government, Van der Bellen said they agreed on the need for a stable transition:

“All those I have spoken to emphasise that they want to ensure Austria’s stability in the coming transitional period, and the unanimity on this point is a start.”

(Additional reporting by Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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