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First female chancellor, Brigitte Bierlein, to head interim government in Austria

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Brigitte Bierlein
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Reuters/Lisi Niesner - REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
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Austria is to have its first female chancellor after a senior judge was picked by the country's president to head an interim government.

The appointment of Brigitte Bierlein follows the collapse of Sebastian Kurz's government, which was voted out of office in the wake of a video sting scandal.

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.

This is expected to be held in September.

Read more: I'll be back - ousted Austrian Chancellor Kurz vows to return

“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.