Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has resigned, just days after he was accused by state prosecutors of being involved in an investigation into alleged corruption at the heart of the Austrian government.
In a brief statement at Ballhausplatz on Saturday evening – the seat of the Vienna Chancellor – Kurz said it was a matter of pride to serve as a minister and chancellor in his 10 years of political life.
“My country is more important than mine,” he said, referring to the need for stability and leadership as Austria emerges from the coronavirus epidemic. “It’s not about me, it’s about Austria.”
Incumbent Foreign Minister Alexander Schellenberg and a colleague of Austria’s moderate Conservative People’s Party, led by Kurz, will take over as Chancellor.
Kurz will leave to lead the party’s parliamentary group.
“Kurz is not really resigning, he is stepping back,” said political adviser Thomas Hoffer. “Make no mistake, he is in charge of the party, and Schellenberg is one of his closest allies. He will consider returning.”
Kurz has not been charged with any wrongdoing, and has repeatedly claimed his innocence in the allegations against him and members of his inner circle.
Following a police raid across Vienna on Wednesday, information was leaked that anti-corruption prosecutors were investigating whether Kurz was involved in a conspiracy to illegally transfer taxpayers’ money from the finance ministry in 2016 and 2017, when Kurz was still foreign minister, friendly media agency to buy positive coverage, and Help him get to the chancellorship.
Within the next 2 hours, news of the investigation sparked a political crisis in Vienna, uniting the country’s politically diverse opposition parties in a bid to oust Kurz.
Importantly, the 355-year-old chancellor যার whose Polish presentation and political acumen once made him the poster boy for the revival of European conservative politics হারিয়ে has lost the confidence of his junior coalition partner, the Austrian Greens.
The fall is Kurz’s second: his first government formed in 2017, after the collapse in 2019, the populist right-wing Freedom Party became embroiled in a scandal seeking Russian influence in the Austrian media.
On Thursday, the senior leadership of the People’s Party was expressing solidarity with Kurz as party leader and chancellor. The party’s regional bosses, ministers and party association heads signed a joint statement stating that the PPP would only participate in a government if Kurz remained in its head.
By Friday evening, the strength of Kurz’s political opposition – who has become a deeply divided figure in Austrian political life – had become clear, despite his popular ratings. Greens declared him “unfit for office” and met with three opposition parties in the country to plot his removal.
With an indication of how far the opposition was willing to go to get rid of him, even the possibility of an alliance between the entire opposition and the Greens was discussed: a government that would unite the Liberals and Socialists with the Austrians, the Right Freedom Party.
Social Democrat leader Pamela Randy-Wagner met again with Freedom Party boss Herbert Kickle on Saturday afternoon, highlighting the importance of the talks.
The Resolve to Back Kurz began to break down as a result. According to party insiders, several full-fledged meetings were held between the regional party leaders, who hold significant powers, and the party leadership.
Although he has tried to rebuild the party in its image – re-branding it and significantly changing its style of politics – Kurz has received only a relatively worthy level of support from the influential old guard of the People’s Party.
His resignation as chancellor is unlikely to be the final step in his Austrian political career.
Despite the scandal, Kurz has been one of Austria’s most popular chancellors for decades. Recent polls suggest he is still the preferred choice of most Austrians.
After his government collapsed with the Freedom Party in mid-2011, he was returned to office by the end of the year with a larger share of the vote.
It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. The Austrian parliament is due to convene on Tuesday to discuss a no-confidence motion against the coalition government.