Vienna, Dec 18: The new government of Austria, a coalition formed by the conservative People’s Party (OVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), was sworn in on Monday amid protests in the capital.
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, the former Green party leader, presided over the ceremony at Vienna’s Hofburg Palace. Sixteen members of the new Cabinet took their seats, including new Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the OVP, Efe news reported.
In the October 15 legislative elections, the OVP had won 31.5 per cent of the vote and Kurz was tasked with forming a government, which led him to forge a coalition with the FPO, a party known for its xenophobic, nationalist and euroskeptic views that had been backed by 26 per cent of the electorate.
The entrance of the far-right party into government was met with demonstrations in Vienna, where some 5,000 to 6,000 people gathered to protest outside the presidential palace.
Bearing placards like “Don’t Let Nazis Govern”, the protesters included women’s groups and left-wing parties. Austrian police said in a tweet some “pyrotechnical” missiles were thrown by demonstrators.
“After throwing several pyrotechnical objects, they are being asked to stop doing so,” the police said.
In a speech during the ceremony, Van der Bellen said he was aware that many people in the country saw the new government’s plans positively, while many others were skeptical or rejected them.
However, he insisted that despite his political differences with the ruling parties, they had all managed to agree on several important points, such as the continuation of Austria’s foreign policies, its continuation within the EU and enshrining rights and liberties as fundamental values.
Kurz and FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache had announced on Friday that they had reached an agreement to rule together for five years.
Of the 16 new Cabinet members, nine are from the FPO, including Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, Interior Minister Herbert Kickl and Defence Minister Mario Kunasek.