ISSN 2330-717X

Austria: Chancellor Kurz Ousted Amid ‘Russian-Linked’ Video Scandal


(RFE/RL) — Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has lost a confidence vote in parliament, removing him from office over a political scandal that brought down his coalition government.

The no-confidence motion on May 27 was backed by lawmakers from the Social Democrats and the far-right Freedom Party, which was in coalition with Kurz until the chancellor ended their alliance last week.

President Alexander van der Bellen must now appoint a chancellor to form a government until the next general election, expected to be held in September.

The political crisis was triggered last week by a 2017 video purportedly showing his vice chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache, offering contracts to a potential Russian benefactor in exchange for political donations.

Strache, with the Freedom Party, announced his resignation from the government on May 18.

In addition to an anti-immigration agenda and links to far-right extremists, the Freedom Party has been dogged by suspicions of cozying up to Russian interests.

The video, published on May 17, reportedly shows Strache offering infrastructure contracts to a woman posing as a wealthy potential donor from Russia. In the video, the woman speaks Russian and identifies herself as the niece of a wealthy Russian businessman.

Another Freedom Party official is shown translating from German into Russian.

The encounter took place on the Spanish island of Ibiza in July 2017, three months before the election that brought Strache’s Freedom Party to power and made him vice chancellor.

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RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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