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Karl Nehammer becomes Chancellor of Austria and vows to go against immigration and lockdowns

Following a corruption scandal that engulfed the ruling People's Party, Austria welcomes the third chancellor in two months, now with a major shift to the right.

Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer was sworn in as Austrian Chancellor this Monday in a ceremony at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, taking command of a government in the midst of political crisis, and becoming the country's third Chancellor in less than three months.

Now he faces the task of trying to rid the coalition government of the stain of months of political turmoil and scandal and of creating the conditions conducive to ending the political crisis that threatens early elections.

Nehammer's arrival followed the resignation of Sebastian Kurz as leader of the ruling ÖVP party and his retirement from politics. He had previously resigned as Chancellor in October amid a corruption scandal that saw his offices searched in a police investigation.

Kurz's departure from the political world triggered the resignation of centrist Alexander Schallenberg as Chancellor and left void of power, which was quickly filled by Nehammer, who years ago was trying to get to the command of the Executive.

Nehammer represents the more conservative side of the ÖVP, and had been appointed by Kurz in January 2020 as head of the Interior Ministry to control the strong migration crisis that was hitting Europe. From his ministry, he supported Kurz to take a hard stance against immigration.

Although he had managed to control immigration during the pandemic, the recent “hybrid war” that Belarus and Turkey are conducting against the European Union disrupted the entire Austrian migration model, and Nehammer will have the difficult challenge of solving both the political crisis internally and the incipient migration crisis.

The new chancellor also promised to achieve a consensus in society regarding sanitary restrictions due to the pandemic. While Kurz had been relatively lax about lockdowns, within two months Schallenberg imposed tough restrictions and tried to make the vaccine mandatory.

Schallenberg's policies generated deep divisions in society and protests across the country. Nehammer must establish a health policy that satisfies those who are pro and anti-lockdown.

For the moment, the general lockdown that Schallenberg had imposed has ended, but he maintains the health pass, which restricts the civil liberties of the unvaccinated. However, Nehammer assured that he was still analyzing what long-term decision he would make.

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