Austria's conservative party chief resigns

Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner, leader of the conservative People's Party (OVP), said earlier on Wednesday he was quitting after having failed to quell party infighting and speculation about its future leadership.

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, Mitterlehner said that his resignation from the Austrian People's Party would be effective from Friday while the official resignation from his vice chancellor position would take effect on May 15.

"I am convinced that it makes sense to use the more than a year ahead to make the necessary changes in our country", Kern told a quickly convened news conference.

Reinhold Mitterlehner has quit in exasperation over simmering disputes within the coalition administration headed by Social Democratic chancellor Christian Kern.

Austria's far-right Freedom Party has led recent opinion polls, and came close past year to having its candidate elected as Austrian president.

Mitterlehner's inability to quell indiscipline and persistent speculation about when Kurz might replace him appeared to have prompted his decision to quit.

It will be up to the party's new leadership to decide whether it continues in the current coalition or seeks an early parliamentary election. The two governing parties and the anti-immigration Freedom Party are the country's strongest. The young Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz is under pressure to take over as head of the party.

"I think it is impossible.to do government work on the one hand and at the same time be our own opposition", he said.

Mitterlehner, the fourth leader of the Austrian People's Party since it lost the chancellery in 2007, criticized the behavior of some party members.

Mitterlehner said he would step down as party leader on May 14.

  • Leroy Wright