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Austrian Chancellor Kurz Resigns in Wake of Corruption Scandal

Published on 12 October 2021 at 11:30

In recent days, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has resigned in the wake of a corruption scandal in a bid to save his coalition government. According to Politico, ‘Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz resigned Saturday evening, bowing to growing pressure over a bombshell corruption probe that has rocked the country’s political establishment to its core. 

 

Kurz, a conservative star once seen as a model for Europe’s centre-right, said his Austrian People’s Party had nominated Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, 52, a career diplomat, to replace him. Kurz, 35, said he planned to remain an MP and would take over the party’s parliamentary group. He also remains the head of his party’. 

 

Further, Politico stated that, ‘Kurz said in a brief statement on live television that he had come to the conclusion that it would have been “irresponsible” for him to wait for the opposition to oust him as chancellor with a no-confidence vote, a step that could have ushered in an unwieldy four-party coalition led by the opposition Social Democrats with the participation of the far-right Freedom Party.

 

“My country is more important to me than my own person,” he said. “I am resigning to prevent chaos.”

The ongoing corruption probe has cast a shadow over Kurz’s government for months, but it was only on Wednesday [last week] that the details of prosecutors’ suspicions regarding the chancellor became public, triggering a political crisis in a country whose leaders have been plagued by scandal in recent years’.

 

Politico elaborated further by saying that ‘Kurz’s travails are likely to put an end — at least for the time being — to calls for other centre-right parties in Europe to follow his personality-driven populist style. In Germany in particular, many Christian Democrats have held up Kurz as a model for their battered party to copy in the wake of their devastating election loss last month’.

‘Though Kurz acknowledged he had made mistakes in connection with the affair, which involves allegations that he used public money to bribe pollsters and journalists, he predicted he would ultimately be vindicated, and cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

 

Whether Kurz will succeed in rescuing his reputation is another question. He seemed particularly embarrassed by text exchanges published in court filings between him and close aides that belie the public image he has cultivated over the years as a selfless public servant. In the texts, Kurz comes across as a cutthroat political operator willing to do whatever it takes to win power’.

“I’m only human,” Kurz said on Saturday, expressing regret for the texts, which included one in which he called the former head of his party an “ass.”

 

‘The resignation brought to a head a chaotic few days following police raids on the chancellery, the finance ministry and the residences of several people in the chancellor’s inner circle. 

 

Authorities suspect Kurz of masterminding a conspiracy that involved embezzling finance ministry funds to pay for polls that served his political agenda, according to court filings. Kurz’s associates allegedly approached Austrian media with the fake data, offering them lucrative government-sponsored advertising if they agreed to carry the polls and write articles about them’.

 

‘Kurz has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. The chancellor’s resignation, which comes less than two years after he formed a coalition with the Greens, marks the second time since 2019 that the young conservative has been forced to step down in a firestorm. In 2019, Kurz’s coalition with the far-right Freedom Party collapsed amid the so-called Ibiza affair, triggered by the release of video footage showing Austria’s then-vice chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache, seeking to trade political influence for party donations a few months before taking office. 

 

Though his government fell, Kurz wasn’t directly implicated in the affair and returned triumphant as chancellor at the beginning of 2020 in coalition with the Greens after winning a snap election’.

 

In summary, the resignation of Sebastian Kurz as Chancellor ends a chaotic period in office for him since first coming to office in December 2017. This meant that he became the youngest head of government in any European country.

 

He has been well known for his hostile views towards migrants and refugees, including in the current context, Afghan refugees, after he stated that Turkey is a ‘more suitable place’ for them. Mr Kurz has also supported measures to close a number of mosques in his country.

 

Following his turbulent period as head of government, he faces a number of allegations of corrupt conduct. Whether any of these accusations lead to any jail time for Mr Kurz remains to be seen.


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