Austria’s Political Crisis

Chancellor Werner Faymann abruptly resigned Monday, saying he’d lost the support of his Social Democrats.

He's out. (Ronald Zak / AP)

Chancellor Werner Faymann abruptly resigned Monday, saying he had lost the support of his Social Democrats, and stunning Austria’s political establishment.

In a statement on the chancellery’s website, Faymann said:

We need to fight unemployment, guarantee social cohesion, and ensure the refugee crisis is handled in an orderly and humane fashion. For this you need strong support. The question was: Do I have the party’s full support? I have to answer in the negative.  

Austria’s president appoints typically the head of the largest political party to be the country’s chancellor, who is the head of government. Faymann has been in the position since 2008. He came under pressure this year from members of his own party amid the migrant and refugee crisis when he capped the number of people who who claim asylum in Austria.

Last month’s presidential election added to the pressure. In the first round, the far-right Freedom Party made massive gains. The Social Democrats and the Conservatives, the two political parties that have dominated post-World War II politics in Austria, did not garner enough votes to make it to the second round of voting where the Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer will face off on May 22 against the Green Party candidate, Alexander Van der Bellen.