Called “Government Puppet,” New Austrian Leader Bela Kurz

Austria’s new Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg vowed Monday to work closely with his predecessor, Sebastian Kurz, who resigned over corruption charges. This sparked criticism by the opposition, who said the new leader would only be an accomplice to Kurz.

The Greens, the junior partner of Kurz’s conservative group, have sued Kurz after he and nine others – including some of his senior aides – were investigated by authorities last week. The investigation was carried out due to suspicions of various breaches of trust, corruption and bribery.

Kurz, who denies wrongdoing, has become a powerful party leader and his party’s main member of parliament in parliament. Opponents say his position allows him to continue to control government policy and act as a “shadow chancellor.”

“I believe the allegations against Kurz are unfounded and I believe in the end they will be proven,” said Schallenberg, a career diplomat who is a close ally of Kurz.

In his first statement after becoming chancellor, Schallenberg said “of course I will work closely with Sebastian Kurz.”

Schallenberg insists he wants to create “a sense of responsibility and stability.”

But these statements did not satisfy the opposition. “My impression is that he intends to do things as they were before and act as if nothing happened,” said Beate Meinl-Reisinger, leader of the liberal Neos Party. He often called on Schallenberg to fight corruption. [em/jm]

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