Mon. Aug 15th, 2022

Austrian Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has resigned to withdraw his coalition government from the brink of collapse after the junior party demanded his head because he has been investigated on suspicion of corruption.

Kurz, who denies wrongdoing, satisfied his coalition partner, the Greens, and came just three days before a special session in parliament, where they were preparing to back a no-confidence motion that would have forced him out.

At the same time, his resignation is more a matter of form than content politically.

He plans to stay on as his party’s leader and become its top politician in parliament, and he is likely to continue to call the shots in the coalition.

“I would therefore like to make room to stop the stalemate, to prevent chaos and to ensure stability,” Kurz said in a statement to the media.

He added that he proposed Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, a career diplomat backed by Mr Kurz’s party, take over as chancellor, which the Greens quickly made clear they accepted.

“I believe this is the right step for future government work,” Green Party leader and Chancellor Werner Kogler said in a statement, adding that he had had a “very constructive” working relationship with Schallenberg and would meet him on Sunday.

A star among Europe’s conservatives known for his hard line on immigration, Mr Kurz, 35, became one of the continent’s youngest leaders in 2017 when he formed a coalition with the far – right Freedom Party, which collapsed into scandal in 2019.

Parliament fired him, but he won the snap election that followed.

He has so far been undisputed as leader of the People’s Party (OVP) – he was re-elected in August with 99.4 percent support.

Breach of trust, corruption and bribery

Sebastian Kurz shakes hands with Werner Kogler in front of the Austrian and EU flag.
Rector Werner Kogler (right) said that the resignation of Sebastian Kurz is the right step for the government.(

AP: Ronald Zak

)

Prosecutors have subjected Mr Kurz and nine others to investigation on suspicion of breach of trust, corruption and bribery with varying degrees of involvement.

As of 2016, when Mr. Kurz sought to take over as party leader, prosecutors suspect that the Conservative-led Treasury Department has paid for manipulated voting and coverage that benefited Mr. Kurz to be published in a newspaper.

Documents released as part of their investigation and published in the Austrian media also included embarrassing and compromising text messages saying Mr Kurz’s opponents show a lack of scruples and use underhanded tactics.

The political consequences, both in terms of his party’s popularity and its relationship with the Greens, are unclear.

“Is it enough?” said the leader of the Liberal Neos party, Beate Meinl-Reisinger, at a press conference in response to Mr Kurz’s announcement.

“We know from [investigation] document that he bought himself a party, that he bought himself an election, that he manipulated and lied to people, and he did it all with your tax money. “

Reuters

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