Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (Austrian People’s Party) addresses the media during a press conference at the Federal Chancellors Office in Vienna on Saturday. Kurz has called for an early election after the resignation of his vice chancellor spelled an end to his governing coalition. (AP Photo/Michael Gruber)
Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has called for new elections on Saturday after the release of a video showing his far-right vice chancellor, Heinz Christian Strache discussing government contracts with an alleged Russian investor.
“After yesterday’s video, I must say quite honestly: Enough is enough,” Kurz said. “The serious part of this was the attitude towards abuse of power, towards dealing with taxpayers’ money, towards the media in this country.”
After Kurz’s statement, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen said he supported a snap vote and would talk over next steps with the chancellor again on Sunday, according to the BBC. The leaks had come within days before European Parliament elections.
The video, which took place at a Spanish villa on the island of Ibiza in 2017, appeared to show Strache and Freedom Party member Johann Gudenus speaking with an unnamed woman, who claimed to be a wealthy niece of a Russian Oligarch looking to invest in Austria. The BBC says the woman offered to buy a 50 percent stake in a prominent Austrian newspaper and switch its position to support the Freedom Party. Stache discusses several journalists he says would have to get “pushed” from the paper and five “new people whom we will build up.” In return, Stache said he would award her public contracts.
The chancellor attributed his actions to drinking, and to acting like a “teenager,” saying his behavior had been “stupid” and “irresponsible.” He mentioned he was leaving to avoid further damage to the government.
Both party leaders have attempted to create a balance between Kurz’s mainstream conservative party and Stache’s far-right Freedom Party, but over time that coalition has eroded, leading to Saturday’s boiling point.