Brigitte Bierlein nominated as interim chancellor

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen has nominated a woman as interim chancellor. Brigitte Bierlein, currently president of the Austrian Constitutional Court, is to become the first female chancellor in Vienna, and will head a caretaker government until the elections in September. The decision meets with approval in the media - although some point out that the question of who will succeed Sebastian Kurz is the least of Austria's problems right now.

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Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

The perfect woman for the job

Austria's president made a good and wise choice, says the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“He tapped a woman. It's a strong and way overdue statement, because in 2019 it shouldn't be a novelty any more to have a female chancellor, even in our conservative Austria. But not only that: Bierlein is close to both the ÖVP and the FPÖ and can unite the right-wing conservative majority. ... Right now, the country needs someone at the helm who is levelheaded, savvy and experienced. Someone who won't go into campaign mode over the next few months, like the newly ejected Chancellor Sebastian Kurz or the other party leaders. Someone who will be able to calm the country down. Brigitte Bierlein is quite likely just the chancellor Austria needs right now.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

A guarantee for harmony

The Gazeta Wyborcza also has high expectations for Bierlein:

“On the one hand, the new chancellor does have very conservative views. But on the other hand, last week she took sides against the FPÖ-led Interior Ministry's plans to institute preventive detention for asylum seekers. She also opposes the ban on face coverings that [former] Chancellor Kurz had introduced - which would have a bigger impact on Viennese women who wrap scarves around their faces while cycling in cold weather than it would on religiously observant Muslim women. So the advantage Bierlein offers is that she can ensure harmony. She also nurtured excellent relations with all the judges in the Constitutional Court.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

So where's that supposed national crisis?

The last few weeks in Austria have revealed just how much the country's political class overestimates its importance, says Christian Ortner, columnist for the Wiener Zeitung:

“If you take a somewhat less emotional view, it becomes clear that this country is farther than ever from any kind of crisis, let alone a national one. In fact, the constitutional bodies have fulfilled and continue to fulfill their functions without a hitch. ... It's also clear that the class of politics and media is overly self-confident, possessed by a fully unrealistic notion of its own significance. After all, for the average person who goes to the office or factory every day and pays taxes to maintain the state and its functionaries, the comings and goings at the top are not earth-shattering.”