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Austria’s Sebastian Kurz resigns from corruption investigation to save coalition

Austria’s conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz resigned on Saturday to pull his coalition government back from the brink of collapse as the junior party demanded his head as he was placed under investigation on suspicion of corruption.

Kurz’s move, which denies wrongdoing, satisfied his coalition partner, the Greens, and came just three days before a special session of parliament at which they were preparing to support a no-confidence motion that would help him. forcing it out.

Also, his resignation is more a matter of form than of essence in terms of policy. He plans to remain as the leader of his party and become its top legislator in parliament, and is likely to continue firing shots at his coalition.

“I would therefore like to create a way to end the impasse, prevent chaos and ensure stability,” Kurz said in a statement to the media. He said he was proposing to Foreign Minister Alexander Schellenberg, a career diplomat backed by Kurz. The party took over as chancellor, which the Greens soon made clear that they had accepted.

“I believe this is the right step for future government work,” Greens leader and vice-chancellor Werner Kogler said in a statement, adding that he had a “very constructive” working relationship with Schalenberg and asked him on Sunday. Will meet

A star among Europe’s conservatives known for his tough line on immigration, Kurz, 35, became one of the continent’s youngest leaders in 2017 when he collapsed in 2019 in the scandal of the far-right Freedom Party. aligned with. Parliament sacked her but she won the mid-term elections that followed. He has remained unopposed as leader of the People’s Party (OVP) so far – he was reappointed in August with 99.4% support.

gone but not

“This resignation is not a real resignation,” said political analyst Thomas Hofer. “It is (formally) a step back in the second line but the power in the OVP and therefore within the OVP government team is still held by Sebastian Kurz.”

Schalenberg, 52, who served as Kurz’s foreign minister before Kurz became chancellor, is unlikely to give up the image of a man who owes his ministerial career to Kurz. He is one of Kurz’s closest confidants, ”said Hofer.

Prosecutors have placed Kurz and nine others under investigation on suspicion of breach of trust, corruption and bribery with varying levels of involvement.

While Kurz was seeking to take over as party leader in 2016, prosecutors suspect that the conservative-led finance ministry paid for Kurz’s favorable voting and coverage to be published in a newspaper.

Documents circulated as part of their investigation and published in Austrian media included shameful
Compromising over text-messages, Kurz’s opponents say it lacks investigation and covert tactics.

Austrian media reports prior to Kurz’s announcement said that he would only step down temporarily. While Kurz did not say what he said about his future: “Above all … I will certainly use the opportunity to refute and refute the allegations made against me.”

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


“this is enough?” The leader of the Liberal Neos party, Beit Meinl-Risinger, said at a news conference reacting to Kurz’s announcement.

We know from the (investigation) documents that he bought himself a party, that he bought himself an election, he manipulated people and lied to people, and he did it all with your tax money.

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