Austrian Chancellor Steps Down Amid Graft Claims

Austrian Chancellor Steps Down Amid Graft Claims

Sebastian Kurz has denied any wrongdoing, reiterating that allegations against him were "false."

Vienna, Austria:

Austria's Sebastian Kurz on Saturday announced he was stepping down as chancellor following pressure on him to resign after he was implicated in a corruption scandal.

His announcement in a televised media statement caps a spectacular rise in politics and a tumultuous four years as chancellor, in which his government already collapsed once.

Kurz -- who in 2017 became the world's youngest democratically elected leader -- said he wanted to "make space to prevent chaos".

"We need stability," the 35-year-old conservative said, adding it would be "irresponsible" to allow Austria to "slide into months of chaos or gridlock" while the EU member of almost nine million fights the pandemic.

Pressure on Kurz to resign, including from his own junior coalition partner the Greens, started after prosecutors on Wednesday raided several locations linked to his People's Party (OeVP).

They announced that Kurz and nine other individuals were under investigation over claims that government money was used between 2016 and 2018 in a corrupt deal to ensure positive media coverage.

Kurz has denied any wrongdoing, reiterating on Saturday that allegations against him were "false."

"I will be able to clarify it; I'm sure about that," he said calmly.

- 'Important step'

Kurz said he would suggest Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg as new chancellor, while he would stay on as OeVP leader and a lawmaker in parliament.

Vice Chancellor and Greens leader Werner Kogler said he would meet Schallenberg Sunday to discuss how the coalition would continue to govern, calling Kurz's resignation a "right and important step".

Kogler on Friday had asked the OeVP to name another chancellor, saying Kurz was "no longer fit for office".

But opposition parties criticised the Greens for continuing to work with the OeVP despite the corruption allegations.

Social Democrats (SPOe) leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner said Kurz would continue to pull the strings "from the shadows".

By stepping down, Kurz avoids having to face a parliamentary no-confidence motion, which he was expected to lose after the Greens turned against him.

In 2019, his coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) collapsed after his ally became engulfed in a corruption scandal dubbed "Ibizagate".

But fresh elections once again saw Kurz's OeVP come out on top.

'Human with emotions and mistakes'

In the latest scandal, according to prosecutors, the core allegation is that between 2016 and 2018, finance ministry resources were used to finance "partially manipulated opinion polls that served an exclusively party political interest".

This correlates to the time period in which Kurz, already a government minister, took over the leadership of the OeVP and later that of the Alpine nation at the helm of a coalition with the FPOe.

Prosecutors allege that payments were made to an unnamed media company -- widely understood to be the Oesterreich tabloid -- in return for publishing these surveys.

While Kurz has denied any wrongdoing, he said some of the text messages he wrote that have been leaked from the investigation files were composed in "the heat of the moment".

"I'm just human with emotions and mistakes," he said.

The OeVP-Green coalition -- a first at a national level -- entered office in January 2020 and has already been put under strain several times by the fallout from other corruption scandals and differences over questions such as refugee policy.

Thousands demonstrated in front of the OeVP headquarters in central Vienna late on Thursday, calling for Kurz's resignation while waving signs that read "Against corruption" and "Shame on you".

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV News

NDTV.com provides latest news from India and the world. Get today’s news headlines from Business, Technology, Bollywood, Cricket, videos, photos, live news coverage and exclusive breaking news from India.

https://www.ndtv.com/

Related news
Fauci is confident age limit for boosters will drop soon.

Fauci is confident age limit for boosters will drop soon.

Dr. Anthony Fauci weighed in on the possibility of Americans younger than 65 becoming eligible to get a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot in the coming weeks and months. #CNN #News

Marine speaks out after fighting off gas station robbery attempt.

Marine speaks out after fighting off gas station robbery attempt.

Marine veteran James Kilcer took matters into his own hands when he witnessed a robbery attempt at an Arizona gas station. Subscribe to Fox News! Watch more Fox News Video: Watch Fox News Channel Live: FOX News Channel (FNC) is a 24-hour all-encom...

Looming Shipping Crisis is Expected to bring Higher Prices, Fewer Choices Ahead of Holiday Season.

Looming Shipping Crisis is Expected to bring Higher Prices, Fewer Choices Ahead of Holiday Season.

From cars and computers to home appliances, apparel and shoes – the global shipping crisis is expected to bring higher prices to a wide range of businesses Originally published at -

Protests Mount Over 2022 Winter Olympics in China

Protests Mount Over 2022 Winter Olympics in China

Activists and lawmakers in numerous countries are calling for the Games to be moved to another country Originally published at -

NATO Defense Ministers Pose for Family Photo in Brussels.

NATO Defense Ministers Pose for Family Photo in Brussels.

Defense ministers from across NATO posed for a photo, Thursday, October 21, at a summit in Brussels. ————————— READ MORE: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday relations between the alliance and Russia are at their lowest point sin...

Morning News NOW Full Broadcast - October 22

Morning News NOW Full Broadcast - October 22

An incident involving actor Alec Baldwin and a prop gun accidentally kills a crew member on a film set, the FBI identifies human remains found on a Florida nature reserve as Brian Laundrie and the CDC authorizes Covid vaccine booster shots for Mod...