Austria names its first female chancellor

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 5/30/2019, 11:32 a.m.

Originally Published: 30 MAY 19 12:15 ET

By Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN

(CNN) -- Austria is welcoming its first female chancellor with the appointment of Brigitte Bierlein, who will lead a caretaker government until elections can be held in September.

Bierlein, the head of the country's highest court, was appointed following the fall of the right-wing coalition in a corruption scandal.

President Alexander Van der Bellen announced the appointment from the Chancellery in Vienna on Thursday.

"The Constitution is the foundation of our Democracy. Therein lies the duty of the President to seek a Chancellor, and this is what is taking place today," Van der Bellen said. "It is my pleasure, ladies and gentlemen, to introduce to you Dr. Brigitte Bierlein, the current sitting president of the Austrian Constitutional Court and whose Chancellorship I will be confirming in the upcoming days."

Earlier this week, the government of Sebastian Kurz was ousted after losing a motion of no-confidence in parliament. Kurz, of the Austrian People's Party, was the first chancellor since World War II to be toppled in such a vote.

Bierlein, 69, has had an illustrious career in law. She studied at the University of Vienna, passing the judge's exam at just 26 years old, according to her biography on the Austrian Constitutional Court website. Two years later, she was appointed to the Public Prosecutor's Office in Vienna where her professional rise continued, culminating with her appointment to president of the country's top court last year.

Kurz's government became engulfed in political chaos nearly two weeks ago following the publication of a secretly-filmed video.

The recording showed then-Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache -- of the coalition partner the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) -- appearing to offer state contracts to a woman falsely claiming to be the niece of a Russian oligarch.

Filmed in Ibiza two years ago, it is not known who recorded the video or set up the meeting. Strache resigned after the tape was revealed by Germany's Der Spiegel news magazine and Süddeutsche Zeitung daily newspaper. He denied any wrongdoing but apologized to "everyone I have disappointed with my behavior."