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Austrian Chancellor Schallenberg to step down as his predecessor Kurz retires from politics

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
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Alexander Schallenberg (L) replaced Sebastian Kurz as Austria's Chancellor two months ago.
Alexander Schallenberg (L) replaced Sebastian Kurz as Austria's Chancellor two months ago.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Lisa Leutner

Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg has said he will step down from the role, hours after his predecessor retired from politics.

Sebastian Kurz had announced earlier on Thursday that he would no longer be the leader of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP).

Kurz had led the ruling conservative party since 2017 but resigned as chancellor two months ago amid corruption allegations.

Schallenberg stated he would also step down from the role when a new party leader was chosen.

"I have great respect for Sebastian Kurz's decision and I thank him for his work for our country," the Austrian Chancellor wrote on Twitter.

"It is not my intention and has never been my aim to take over the position of party leader," he added.

"I firmly believe that both offices - head of government and federal chairman of the party with the largest number of votes in Austria - should be reunited."

"I will therefore make my office as Federal Chancellor available as soon as the appropriate course has been set within the party."

Schallenberg formerly served as Austria's foreign minister before replacing Kurz in October.

Earlier on Thursday, Kurz told reporters in Vienna that he would be retiring from politics after the recent birth of his first child.

Kurz first became Austria's Secretary of State at the age of 24, before he had even completed his law degree.

He was then appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs before becoming the world's youngest head of government when he was appointed chancellor aged 31 years old.

But the so-called "golden boy" of Austrian politics has faced years of investigations, dating back to 2019 when his coalition collapsed amid the "Ibizagate" corruption scandal.

Kurz resigned as Chancellor in October after Austrian prosecutors announced that he was one of the targets of an investigation into suspected bribery and breach of trust.

Kurz and his close associates are accused of manipulating polls and friendly media reports with public money to try and secure his position.

The Austrian Greens -- junior coalition partners of the ÖVP -- had called for him to step down and his parliamentary immunity was lifted last month.

Speaking on Thursday, the 35-year-old acknowledged mistakes he had made during his 10-year career but insisted "I’m neither a saint nor a criminal".

“I’m a human being with strengths and weaknesses,” he said, adding that he looked forward to defending himself against the corruption allegations in court.

"It is a new chapter in my life that opens today," Kurz said, before handing over his party duties on Friday.

Austrian media report that Interior Minister Karl Nehammer could replace Kurz as the head of the conservative ÖVP and possibly succeed Schallenberg as chancellor.