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Top Austrian judge to become country's first female chancellor

Top Austrian judge to become country's first female chancellor
Designated Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein arrives for a news conference in Vienna, Austria, May 30, 2019. Reuters/Lisi Niesner -
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VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria’s president has picked the female president of the Constitutional Court to become interim chancellor after parliament voted Sebastian Kurz’s government out of office in the wake of a video sting scandal.

Brigitte Bierlein, who is due to reach the court’s mandatory retirement age of 70 this year, will be tasked with putting together a cabinet that will have parliament’s backing until the next election, which is expected to be held in September. She will be Austria’s first female chancellor.

“The most important goal is currently to contribute to greater calm and to building trust between all (political) sides … in Austria, in Europe and in the whole world,” Bierlein said in remarks to the media with President Alexander Van der Bellen on Thursday.

Van der Bellen’s pick is what had been widely expected – a veteran civil servant not involved in day-to-day politics – though many judges are close to a party, and Kurz’s right-wing coalition government proposed Bierlein as the court’s chief.

He said he and Bierlein, whom he plans to formally appoint along with her cabinet within days, had agreed to pick mainly civil servants as ministers. Bierlein said she had chosen Alexander Schallenberg, a diplomat who worked as a senior official in Kurz’s office, as foreign minister.

“In the coming months we will, no doubt, not see any big, lasting legislative initiatives. It is much more about a good and orderly administration of state affairs,” Van der Bellen said.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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