Posted on: BBC | May 5th, 2019
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has called a snap election following the collapse of his coalition government over a corruption scandal.
The move came after Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache resigned after secret footage emerged showing him talking to an alleged Russian investor.
Mr Kurz’s centre-right People’s Party has been in government with Mr Strache’s far-right Freedom Party.
Austria’s president recommended that elections should be held in September.
«This new beginning should take place quickly, as quickly as the provisions of the Federal Constitution permit, so I plead for elections… in September,» President Alexander van der Bellen said on Sunday.
On Saturday Mr Kurz said this was not the first time he had had difficulties with the party.
«Even if I didn’t express myself publicly at the time, there were many situations that I found difficult to swallow,» he said. «After yesterday’s video, I must say quite honestly: Enough is enough.
«The serious part of this was the attitude towards abuse of power, towards dealing with taxpayers’ money, towards the media in this country,» Mr Kurz said, adding that he had been personally insulted in the footage.
Mr Strache blamed his actions on alcohol and acting like a «teenager», saying his behaviour had been «stupid» and «irresponsible», and that he was leaving to avoid further damage to the government.
What next for the Freedom Party?
Analysis by Bethany Bell, BBC News, Vienna
The Freedom Party is one of Europe’s best-established populist, nationalist parties. But while it is skilled in opposition, frequently gaining over 20% of the vote, its record is much more patchy when it comes to staying in power.
In 2002, early elections had to be called when its coalition with the conservatives fell apart. In 2005, the party split over internal disagreements.
Other European populist parties will be watching the Freedom Party’s next steps closely. This scandal, which comes just a week before the EU elections, is likely to be a blow to attempts by Italy’s Matteo Salvini to forge an alliance of nationalist European parties.
The Freedom Party, once seen as an example to be emulated, could now serve as a warning.
What do we know about the video?
It was published by German media on Friday, but it is not known who recorded it.
Neither is it clear who set up the meeting, which allegedly took place at a villa on the Spanish island of Ibiza in July 2017.
The video shows Mr Strache and Johann Gudenus – also a Freedom Party politician – relaxing on sofas, drinking and talking to a woman who claims to be a wealthy Russian national looking to invest in Austria.
In the footage, the woman offers to buy a 50% stake in Austria’s Kronen-Zeitung newspaper and switch its editorial position to support the Freedom Party.
In exchange, Mr Strache said he could award her public contracts, explaining that he wanted to «build a media landscape like [Victor] Orban», a reference to Hungary’s prime minister, described by critics as an authoritarian leader.
The vice-chancellor also speculates that the Russian’s takeover of Kronen-Zeitung could boost support for the party to as much as 34%.
«If you take over the Kronen Zeitung three weeks before the election and get us into first place, then we can talk about everything,» Mr Strache said.
As part of the deal, he suggests the Russian woman «set up a company like Strabag», the Austrian construction firm.
«All the government orders that Strabag gets now, [you] would get,» he continues.
Mr Strache also names several journalists who would have to be «pushed» from the newspaper, and five other «new people whom we will build up».
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