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Austrian government in turmoil over video scandal

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, 20 May 19Symbol copyright
AFP

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Chancellor Kurz shaped a coalition with the far-right celebration in October 2017

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is struggling with to shore up his coalition govt after a video scandal pressured the resignation of his far-right deputy Heinz-Christian Strache.

Consideration is now taken with Internal Minister Herbert Kickl, a member of Mr Strache’s Freedom Birthday celebration (FPÖ).

In a temporary press observation, Mr Kurz didn’t verify hypothesis that Mr Kickl can be sacked over the affair.

Undercover video confirmed Mr Strache discussing a take care of a Russian girl.

The scandal erupted on Friday, when the pictures from 2017 used to be revealed in German media. Tomorrow Mr Strache resigned and Chancellor Kurz – head of the centre-right Other people’s Birthday celebration (ÖVP) – mentioned new elections would should be held.

The video confirmed Mr Strache and every other FPÖ reputable proposing to provide govt contracts to a meant Russian oligarch’s daughter. In addition they prompt taking up Austria’s best-selling newspaper, Kronen Zeitung, to show it right into a celebration propaganda organ.

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Media captionMr Strache mentioned he resigned as a result of he didn’t wish to supply a pretext for the federal government’s cave in

Russia has denied any involvement. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, mentioned “that is an incident that has now not, and may just now not, have anything else to do with us”.

The scandal comes at a specifically awkward time for the FPÖ. Electorate around the EU move to the polls on 23-26 Would possibly, in Ecu Parliament elections broadly anticipated to spice up the numbers of far-right MEPs.

Political uncertainty

Mr Strache blamed his movements on alcohol and appearing like a “youngster”, pronouncing his behaviour have been “silly” and “irresponsible”, and that he used to be leaving to keep away from additional injury to the federal government.

Mr Kurz is because of meet Internal Minister Kickl quickly – however the FPÖ has warned that, if Mr Kickl is pressured out, the remainder of the FPÖ ministers will hand over.

Mr Kickl mentioned “as of late I’ve every other assembly with Chancellor Kurz, and I will be able to as soon as once more make it transparent to him that what issues to me is the entire of Austria, the entire of my folks, now not my place”.

Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen referred to as for early elections to be held in September.

Chancellor Kurz mentioned his celebration used to be “surprised” by means of Mr Strache’s behaviour, which he referred to as “a fallacious strategy to politics”.

The scandal had broken Austria’s world recognition, Mr Kurz mentioned.

He demanded a complete investigation, pronouncing the video would possibly have felony ramifications. “The rest unlawful should be clarified,” he mentioned.

EU ‘in disbelief’

An EU Fee spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, mentioned the EU had “adopted in disbelief as a pace-setter of a political celebration used to be observed negotiating get admission to to media and establishments, in alternate for price range from exterior benefactors who obviously should not have Europeans’ excellent pursuits at middle”.

On Saturday Mr Kurz mentioned this used to be now not the primary time he had had difficulties with the FPÖ.

“Even though I did not categorical myself publicly on the time, there have been many scenarios that I discovered tricky to swallow,” he mentioned. “After the previous day’s video, I should say relatively truthfully: Sufficient is sufficient.”

What do we all know concerning the video?

It isn’t identified who recorded it.

Nor is it transparent who arrange the assembly, which allegedly happened at a villa at the Spanish island of Ibiza in July 2017 – sooner than the FPÖ joined the brand new govt.

The video presentations Mr Strache and Johann Gudenus – every other FPÖ flesh presser – enjoyable on sofas, ingesting and speaking to a girl who claims to be a rich Russian nationwide having a look to spend money on Austria.

Within the pictures, the lady provides to shop for a 50% stake in Austria’s Kronen Zeitung newspaper and turn its editorial place to give a boost to the Freedom Birthday celebration.

In alternate, Mr Strache mentioned he may just award her public contracts, explaining that he sought after to “construct a media panorama like [Victor] Orban”, a connection with Hungary’s top minister, described by means of critics as an authoritarian chief.

The vice-chancellor additionally speculates that the Russian’s takeover of Kronen Zeitung may just spice up give a boost to for the celebration to up to 34%.

“If you are taking over the Kronen Zeitung 3 weeks sooner than the election and get us into first position, then we will speak about the whole lot,” Mr Strache mentioned.

As a part of the deal, he suggests the Russian girl “arrange an organization like Strabag”, the Austrian building company.

“All of the govt orders that Strabag will get now, [you] would get,” he continues.

Mr Strache additionally names a number of newshounds who would should be “driven” from the newspaper, and 5 different “new folks whom we will be able to building up”.

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