VIENNA – Reflecting further strains in Austria's strife-ridden coalition ahead of early elections, Chancellor Christian Kern threatened Tuesday to work without the junior partner in government unless that party's head becomes his deputy.
Kern, a Social Democrat, said that unless Sebastian Kurz of the People's Party takes the vice chancellor post, he will turn to opposition parties in parliament for support in governing.
Kurz took over as People's Party head on Sunday. But he is refusing the vice chancellorship held by his predecessor that is traditionally exercised by the junior coalition partner.
Instead, shortly after Kern's threat, his party appointed former Justice Minister Wolfgang Brandstetter to the position.
With the coalition bogged down by infighting, Kurz's refusal to take the post appears to be an attempt to dissociate himself from its negative image going into early elections this fall.
Regular elections had been scheduled for the fall of 2018 but after consultations Tuesday, parties represented in parliament agreed to move them up to Oct. 15 this year.
The legislature still has to vote on both holding early elections and the date. But with all parties in support, passage is a formality.