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Austria’s next chancellor: Ex-soldier, hardliner, survivor

Nehammer, 49, is a former soldier and communications adviser who rose through the ranks of the party, eventually becoming its chairman.

By: Reuters | Vienna |
December 5, 2021 10:36:49 pm
Designated Chancellor of Austria and designated leader of the Austrian People's Party OVP Karl Nehammer attends a news conference in Vienna. (Reuters)

Following are some key facts about Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer, who was picked by top officials of the ruling conservative party on Friday to be their leader and the country’s next chancellor.

* Nehammer, who will succeed Sebastian Kurz and his ally the current chancellor, Alexander Schallenberg, will head the current ruling coalition between his People’s Party (OVP) and Greens.

* His current job is his first cabinet position. He was appointed when Kurz led the OVP into coalition with the Greens at the start of last year.

* Nehammer, 49, is a former soldier and communications adviser who rose through the ranks of the party, eventually becoming its chairman. He is fond of military vernacular, such as when he wished troops deploying on Austria’s border last year “Soldatenglueck!” (soldiers’ luck).

* As interior minister he has been the chief enforcer of Kurz’s hallmark policy: a hard line on illegal immigration, bolstering checks at the border and pledging to prevent a repeat in Austria of Europe’s 2015-2016 migration crisis, when Austria took in more than 1% of its population in asylum seekers.

* He has survived at least one major scandal as minister. A serious intelligence failure by officials under his authority meant Austria did not hunt down a convicted jihadist who was known to have tried to buy ammunition for an automatic rifle. That jihadist killed four people in a rampage in Vienna last year before being shot dead by police.

* While Nehammer admitted that “intolerable mistakes” were made in the handling of intelligence on the jihadist, he blamed his far-right predecessor Herbert Kickl for the state of his ministry, even though Kickl was there for less than two years and before that it had been run by Nehammer’s conservatives for 17 years.

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