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18 May, 2019 17:55

‘As soon as possible’: Austria’s Kurz on snap elections following leaked video scandal

‘As soon as possible’: Austria’s Kurz on snap elections following leaked video scandal

Austria is to face snap elections after a leaked tape scandal led to the resignation of its vice-chancellor who called it “political assassination.” His right-wing party is part of the conservative government coalition.

“I have proposed to the president today to hold snap elections in Austria as soon as possible,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said. President Alexander van der Bellen confirmed he and Kurz have already discussed snap elections, calling them “the only way to restore trust in public institutions.” He hasn't given any further details.

Kurz devoted most of his speech to praising the work of his government over the past two years and bashing the Freedom Party (FPO) – a junior member of his coalition.

“With such behavior, the FPO [the Freedom Party] damages the [government’s] reform project and the ‘way of change’,” he said, adding that his coalition partners also “tarnish the image” of Austria.

Also on rt.com ‘Political assassination’: Austrian Vice Chancellor Strache resigns after leaked video scandal

The country has been shaking since Friday when German newspapers Spiegel and Suddeutscher Zeitung broke a story centered around a leaked 2017 secret recording showing former Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and another high-ranking FPO member talking to a woman who was described as a “niece of a Russian oligarch.”

The politicians discussed the ways the woman could support their election campaign ahead of Austria’s 2017 general vote in exchange for future preferences in acquiring government contracts in the field of construction. They particularly discussed the possibility of her buying a majority share in an Austrian tabloid newspaper and using it as a platform to support the FPO.

Following the reports, Strache announced his resignation both from the post of vice-chancellor and the post of the FPO leader while calling the leak “political assassination.”

However, he did not dispute the video’s authenticity, arguing instead that it should be made public in full and adding that he maintained during that meeting at “everything must be within the law.”

Also on rt.com German intel cautious about working with Austrian counterparts, because… Russia – reports

In his speech, Kurz criticized the leak that led to the scandal by saying that the methods used to expose Strache’s misdeeds were “despicable” and reminded him of a “dirty campaign” waged against Kurz himself back in 2017 by a political adviser Tal Silberstein hired by Social Democrats.

Yet, he also said that nothing justifies the actions of Strache seen in the footage.
“What is really problematic and of great importance here is the ideas of power abuse and misuse of taxpayers’ money as well as the approach to the media landscape in our country.”

The scandal rocked the Austrian society with thousands of people taking to the streets to demand snap elections. Some 5,000 protesters joined a spontaneous rally outside of the Chancellor’s Office in the Austrian capital of Vienna.

The protesters that flooded the area near the Chancellor’s Office were seen holding the placards that read: “Snap election now!” and “Mr. Chancellor, what is wrong with you?”

It's now up to the Austrian lawmakers to pass the bill calling for snap elections. The leader of the largest opposition party – the Social Democratic Party (SPO) – Pamela Rendi-Wagner told the Austrian ORF broadcaster she will not oppose the move. Her party came second in the 2017 elections. Although Kurz's conservative People's Party gained the most votes, it had to form a coalition with the more right-wing FPO, which had netted a surprising result after almost matching the number of seats won by SPO.

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