Austria's Kurz names new ministers after scandal

Vienna (AFP) –


Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz appointed new cabinet ministers on Wednesday to replace those from the far right who have left their posts in the wake of the so-called "Ibiza-gate" affair.

The centre-right chancellor -- who has called for snap elections in September following the collapse of his coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) -- named four of his allies to the interior, defence, transport and social affairs ministries.

Kurz also appointed his finance minister, Hartwig Loeger, as his new vice-chancellor.

The new ministers were immediately sworn in by Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen.

"The goal of the president and of course also my goal as chancellor is to do everything in this phase to ensure stability in Austria," Kurz told reporters before his first meeting with the new cabinet.

The ruling coalition between the FPOe and Kurz's People's Party (OeVP) started to collapse on Saturday when vice-chancellor and FPOe chief Heinz-Christian Strache resigned over a hidden-camera sting.

In the recordings, filmed in a villa on the holiday island of Ibiza, show him appearing to offer contracts in return for campaign help from a fake Russian backer.

In the fall-out from the scandal, Kurz also fired the interior minister, another prominent FPOe member, leading to the resignation of three other FPOe ministers.

But the chancellor could still be forced out himself by a no-confidence motion expected in a special parliament sitting next Monday.

It is not yet clear whether the FPOe and the main opposition Social Democrats (SPOe) will back the motion, even though the SPOe has accused Kurz of causing the current turmoil by entering an alliance with the far-right in the first place.

Meanwhile, the head of Austria's Jewish Community (IKG) organisation, Oskar Deutsch, called on other parties not to allow the FPOe back into government.

"I said this at the last election, and we have now been proved right," said Deutsch, pointing to what he said were 70 anti-Semitic incidents linked to FPOe members during its time in government.

Kurz, 32, took office in late 2017, heading the coalition of the OeVP and the FPOe after both parties won votes on an anti-immigration platform.

Strache, who has admitted that his behaviour was "stupid" and "irresponsible", has also vowed to prove his innocence and "unmask those behind this illegally made video".