Karl Nehammer set to become Austria’s next chancellor

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Austria’s interior minister Karl Nehammer is set to become the country’s new chancellor.

Incumbent chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said on Thursday he would step down from the role when a new leader was chosen.

Schallenberg had replaced Sebastian Kurz in October when his predecessor resigned amid corruption allegations.

Nehammer announced on Friday that he will become the acting leader of the country’s largest political group, the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP).

“I have been unanimously nominated today by the ÖVP leadership as party chairman and therefore a candidate for the post of chancellor,” Nehammer told reporters in Vienna.

“I am extremely grateful, it is an honour and a privilege that I did not expect,” he added.

On Thursday, Kurz announced he would be retiring from politics and leaving as the ÖVP leader.

Schallenberg had stated that he would make way for someone to lead both the conservative party and Austria’s government.

Nehammer needs the backing of his party’s junior coalition partners, the Greens, and the approval of Austria’s president, which is considered a formality. His position as permanent leader of the People’s Party also requires formal confirmation.

The 49-year-old began his career in the army before becoming an MP in 2017 and joining the cabinet in January last year.

Nehammer is known for his hard-line approach to migration and asylum-seekers and has also pledged to make tackling the COVID-19 pandemic a priority.

The ÖVP has been part of the Austrian government since 1987 and won the most votes at the country’s last election in 2019.

A cabinet reshuffle is also expected to take place, with Finance Minister Gernot Blümel resigning and Schallenberg due to return to his former role as Foreign Minister.

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