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Minority cabinet sworn in as Austria reels from video scandal

A minority government led by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was sworn in on Wednesday, after Kurz's coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) collapsed over corruption allegations that were raised by a video sting.

Vienna, 22 May 2019 (dpa/MIA) – A minority government led by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was sworn in on Wednesday, after Kurz’s coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) collapsed over corruption allegations that were raised by a video sting.

Ministers from Kurz’s People’s Party and independent Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl kept their posts, while FPOe ministers were replaced by little-known experts and senior public servants, rather than politicians.

However, it is not clear if the caretaker cabinet will survive past Monday, when the small leftist Jetzt (Now) party plans to hold a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Social Democrats (SPOe) and Kurz’s previous coalition partners of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) have not ruled out joining the motion to vote Kurz out of office, rather than letting him govern until early elections set for September.

An SPOe spokesman criticized that Kurz had failed to reach out to the opposition to secure his cabinet’s future.

Kurz had shown a “shocking lack of dialogue and respect,” the spokesman told dpa.

At the swearing-in ceremony, President Alexander Van der Bellen urged the interim cabinet to build trust and find compromises with parliament.

“Active and mature democracy is not just about pushing through one’s own positions and programmes,” he said.

The current political crisis was triggered on Friday by the publication of a covert video from 2017 that showed FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache talking about potential infrastructure contracts and media deals with a woman posing as a wealthy Russian donor.

Strache stepped down as vice chancellor over the video, along with colleagues from his party. The source of the recording is unknown.

FPOe politicians have indicated that their party might also vote against Kurz on Monday, blaming Kurz for the end of the right-wing coalition.

Van der Bellen swore in former Supreme Court president Eckart Ratz as the new interior minister.

Austrian air traffic control executive Valerie Hackl took over as transport and innovation minister, while the army’s deputy chief of staff, Johann Luif, became defence minister.

The labour social affairs and health portfolio went to Walter Poeltner, a former senior ministerial official who returned from retirement.

Conservative Finance Minister Hartwig Loeger, who has been in office since late 2017, took on the additional post of vice chancellor, replacing the disgraced Strache.

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