The head of Austria’s railway system took over as the country’s chancellor on May 17. He has pledged to shake up a coalition government that has seen popular support erode amid worries over immigration and rising unemployment.
As reported by The Financial Times, Christian Kern succeeds Werner Faymann, who resigned after losing the support of the centre-left Social Democratic party.
Kern, chief executive of the ÖBB railway network since 2010, is allied with the Social Democrats but rose to prominence in Austrian business. He will head a “grand coalition” government that also includes the centre-right People’s party (ÖVP).
His appointment came just days ahead of elections for a new Austrian president that could make the candidate of the far-right nationalist Freedom party (FPÖ) the country’s new head of state.
With the chancellor running the government, the Austrian presidency is traditionally a largely ceremonial post. Nevertheless, a victory by Norbert Hofer, the FPÖ candidate, on May 22 would heighten fears in other European capitals about the rise of rightwing, populist parties.
A win for Mr Hofer would also exacerbate tensions in Vienna if he sought influence over the government programme and to create a rival power centre to the chancellery, reported The Financial Times.