Austrian Vice Chancellor Calls Kurz’s Resignation ‘Right Step’
23:51 GMT 09.10.2021 (Updated: 00:08 GMT 10.10.2021)
VIENNA (Sputnik) - Austrian Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler, of the Green Party, has commended Sebastian Kurz on his decision to quit as chancellor after prosecutors said that he was under a corruption investigation.
“Sebastian Kurz told me about his resignation
as federal chancellor and I think that, seeing the current situation, it is the right step,“ Kogler said in a Saturday statement.
Kogler, whose Green party is a minority partner in the Austrian coalition government, said he had worked constructively with Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg who was tapped to take over as acting chancellor.
“I have the first meeting planned for tomorrow with the foreign minister, who was nominated by the People’s Party to fill the chancellor’s post,“ Kogler said.
Earlier on Saturday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he was going to resign to “prevent chaos and guarantee stability.“ He proposed Schallenberg as his replacement.
Kurz added that it was not an easy decision for him, but it was motivated by the belief that his country was more important “than my person“, as per the Times.
He is still determined to remain the leader of the People's Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, or ÖVP in German).
On Wednesday, Austrian prosecutors confirmed that Kurz and nine others were under a corruption investigation and that the chancellery and the offices of Kurz’s Austrian People’s Party had been searched. According to investigators, Kurz and his allies are suspected of having used public funds in 2016-2018 to secure positive media coverage.
9 October 2021, 17:52 GMT
Ironically, this is not the first time Kurz — who is the youngest ever chancellor in Austria's history and has been one of the most promising conservative politicians in Europe — has had to step down. In 2019, Kurz was ousted through a vote of no confidence amid a notorious investigation into his ex-vice chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, who had been entangled in a corruption scandal.
The scandal (known as “Ibizagate“) erupted after footage emerged showing Strache and a number of other Austrian politicians bribing a woman who tried to pass herself off as “Russian“ in exchange for favorable media coverage of the Freedom Party (FPO, at that time, the People's Party junior partner in the coalition). The woman later turned out to be a Bosnian student who (surprise!) was specifically selected to act in the footage, according to media reports.
Kurz's dismissal prompted snap elections the same year, which saw the People's Party prevail, after which, Kurz was brought back to power as the Austrian chancellor. Kurz managed to negotiate a new coalition with the Green Party.
Prior to his unexpected resignation, Kurz stated he was not going to bow to corruption accusations and vowed to continue to work with the Greens citing his party's two successful elections in the past.
“I will defend myself [vigorously] against the accusations. As the People’s Party, we were successfully elected in two elections, [and] we stand for government cooperation with the Greens and are ready to continue!“, Kurz tweeted.
Kurz has been largely criticized by his European colleagues for toughening Austria's immigration policies, as he pledged to defend open societies and democratic values within the EU.