Austria names its first female chancellor
Austria is welcoming its first female chancellor with the appointment of Brigitte Bierlein, who will lead a caretaker government until elections can be held in September.
Bierlein, the head of the country’s highest court, was appointed following the fall of the right-wing coalition in a corruption scandal.
President Alexander Van der Bellen announced the appointment Thursday from the Chancellery in Vienna.
“The Constitution is the foundation of our Democracy. Therein lies the duty of the President to seek a Chancellor, and this is what is taking place today,” Van der Bellen said. “It is my pleasure, ladies and gentlemen, to introduce to you Dr. Brigitte Bierlein, the current sitting president of the Austrian Constitutional Court and whose Chancellorship I will be confirming in the upcoming days.”
Earlier this week, the government of Sebastian Kurz was ousted after losing a motion of no-confidence in parliament. Kurz, of the Austrian People’s Party, was the first chancellor since World War II to be toppled in such a vote.
On Thursday, Van der Bellen praised the 69-year-old judge for taking on the role, given the unprecedented circumstances, CNN affiliate ORF reported. Van der Bellen had previously announced snap elections were a “necessity” following the corruption scandal.
According to the Austrian public service broadcaster, Bierlein thanked the President for his confidence, adding, “I will do everything in my power to justify the trust instilled in me.”
ORF also reported that Clemens Jabloner, the former president of the Higher Administrative Court, is to become the new vice chancellor and justice minister, while Alexander Schallenberg, another former chancellery minister, will take up the position of foreign minister.
Bierlein has had an illustrious career in law. She studied at the University of Vienna, passing the judge’s exam at just 26 years old, according to her biography on the Austrian Constitutional Court website.
Two years later, she was appointed to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Vienna, where her professional rise continued, culminating with her appointment as the president of the country’s top court last year.
Kurz’s government became engulfed in political chaos nearly two weeks ago following the publication of a secretly-filmed video.
The recording showed then-Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache — of the coalition partner the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) — appearing to offer state contracts to a woman falsely claiming to be the niece of a Russian oligarch.
Filmed in Ibiza two years ago, it is not known who recorded the video or set up the meeting. Strache resigned after the tape was revealed by Germany’s Der Spiegel news magazine and Süddeutsche Zeitung daily newspaper. He denied any wrongdoing but apologized to “everyone I have disappointed with my behavior.”
CNN’s Chris Williams contributed to this report.