Austria: Top court justice to lead caretaker government

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BERLIN (AP) — Austria's president said Thursday he will appoint the head of the country's top court to lead a caretaker government until new elections in September, after the previous one collapsed over a video scandal.

Brigitte Bierlein, who has been president of Austria's Constitutional Court since February 2018, will be the country's first female chancellor.

President Alexander Van der Bellen said Bierlein's interim government will be composed mainly of experienced government officials and likely won't be passing any major legislation over the coming months.

"Instead, it will be about a good and orderly management of state affairs," he told reporters.

Van der Bellen's decision to name Bierlein as interim chancellor comes after the government of Sebastian Kurz lost a confidence vote in parliament Monday.

Kurz pulled the plug on the governing coalition between his right-wing People's Party and the far-right Freedom Party earlier this month. It followed the publication of a video showing Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache appearing to offer lucrative government contracts to a purported Russian investor.

Kurz has vowed to seek the chancellorship again in the fall and initial public reaction to the video scandal appears to show him emerging the winner. His party came first in the European Parliament elections last Sunday.

Bierlein told reporters she considered it her duty to lead the caretaker government "in this hitherto unique situation."

The long-time prosecutor, who was appointed vice-president of the Constitutional Court in 2003, said she will propose an experience jurist, Clemens Jabloner, to be vice-chancellor and justice minister in the interim government.

Alexander Schallenberg, a civil servant in charge of the Europe section at the chancellery, is being proposed as interim foreign minister, she said.

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