Vienna / AFP
Austria’s unpopular and squabbling centrist coalition began the search on Tuesday for a new leader and a new start after a surging populist far-right forced Chancellor Werner Faymann to resign.
The choice of a successor to Faymann, 56, who quit on Monday due to “insufficient support” in his Social Democrats (SPOe) party, is fraught with potential risks, however, experts say. The cabinet, led on an interim basis by Reinhold Mitterlehner, head of the SPOe’s coalition partner the People’s Party (OeVP), was to meet in Vienna early Tuesday ahead of a gathering of OeVP top brass in Salzburg. The two centrist parties have dominated Austrian politics since World War II but the writing has long been on the wall, only just managing to scratch together a majority at the last elections in 2013.
Mirroring similar trends across Europe, they have been bleeding support to fringe groups, in particular to the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPOe) after almost a million migrants passed through Austria last year. The FPOe under Heinz-Christian Strache, 46, is leading opinion polls ahead of the next general election due in 2018.