Going through Felony Inquiry, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz Resigns

BERLIN — Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria introduced on Saturday that he would resign, days after prosecutors launched a felony investigation into allegations he used federal cash to repay pollsters and journalists for favorable protection.

The transfer got here amid intense stress from all sides, with Mr. Kurz’s companions within the authorities, the Greens, threatening to give up the coalition except his conservative Individuals’s Celebration changed him as chancellor. The nation’s president issued a stern assertion urging all gamers to place social gathering politics apart within the curiosity of stability.

“I admit that it’s not a straightforward step for me,” Mr. Kurz instructed reporters at a information convention in Vienna on Saturday night. “My nation is extra essential than my particular person. What it wants is stability.”

Mr. Kurz, 35, stated that he would counsel Alexander Schallenberg, 52, the nation’s overseas minister, as his alternative within the chancellery. He stated he would keep on because the chief of his social gathering and the top of the conservative caucus in Parliament — positions that might hold him near the brand new chancellor.

Saturday’s resignation was the second time Mr. Kurz was pressured to surrender the chancellorship with out serving out a full time period. It was additionally the second time that his exit was linked to allegations of corruption. However observers famous that regardless of surrendering his title, he remained in proximity to the levers of energy.

“An actual lack of energy appears a relatively totally different,” Peter Filzmaier, a political scientist instructed Austria’s public broadcaster ORF, stating that Mr. Schallenberg is a confidant of Mr. Kurz.

Werner Kogler, Austria’s vice chancellor and chief of the Greens, who had questioned Mr. Kurz’s capability to stay as chancellor whereas below felony investigation, welcomed the resignation.

“Given the present state of affairs, I consider that is the appropriate step for our work within the authorities to proceed, and for Austria’s picture overseas,” he stated, indicating that his social gathering would stay within the coalition.

The primary authorities that Mr. Kurz had cast, with the far-right Freedom Celebration, collapsed in 2019 over a compromising video that confirmed the Freedom Celebration chief promising authorities contracts in alternate for monetary assist from a lady claiming to be a rich Russian. That partnership lasted solely 526 days.

After a snap election in 2019, Mr. Kurz received a decisive victory for his social gathering, however this time he pivoted to the left, forming a authorities with the Greens.

When federal prosecutors introduced on Wednesday that that they had opened a felony investigation in opposition to Mr. Kurz and 9 others, together with his shut advisers and members of his social gathering, the Greens started questioning whether or not he was match to stay in workplace.

In his assertion on Saturday, Mr. Kurz insisted the allegations in opposition to him had been unfaithful and stated that he would show his innocence.

“These accusations date again to 2016. They’re false, and I will clear this up,” he stated. “I’m deeply satisfied of that.”

Between 2016 and 2018, prosecutors claimed of their assertion Wednesday, Mr. Kurz was concerned in utilizing taxpayer cash from the nation’s finance ministry to pay a polling firm to conduct, and in some circumstances manipulate, surveys favorable to him and his social gathering.

The outcomes of the surveys had been then printed in newspapers owned by a media conglomerate that accepted funds in alternate for the constructive protection, prosecutors stated of their assertion. The suspicions are based mostly partially on prolonged textual content message conversations between Mr. Kurz and a few of his advisers.

After an intense, social media-savvy marketing campaign centered largely on patriotic themes and taking a tough line in opposition to migration, Mr. Kurz led his social gathering to victory in 2019 — rising its assist by 6 share factors.

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