Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurtz announced his resignation. The reason was the ongoing investigation against him about possible involvement in corruption and abuse of office.
“In this very critical period, in my opinion, it would be irresponsible to slide into months of chaos or stagnation … In my opinion, stability is necessary … Therefore, in order to resolve the impasse, I would like to give way in order to prevent chaos and ensure stability.” – said Kurtz at a specially assembled press conference on Saturday, October 9.
At the same time, he noted that he will remain the head of the Austrian People’s Party (ANP) and will take the seat of a deputy in the National Council (lower house of parliament). Kurz also proposed to the President of Austria Alexander Van der Bellen appoint the minister of foreign affairs as acting head of government Alexander Schallenberg…
On October 6, the offices of the headquarters of the Austrian People’s Party, headed by Kurz, were searched in connection with suspicion of bribery of the media. Investigators examined the documentation in the offices of the Chancellor’s official representative Johannes FrischmannCommissioner for work with the media Fleischmann’s Bulletin and advisor Stefan Steiner… They are accused of bribing the Österreich newspaper to publish materials and polls with positive reviews of the party.
In addition, Kurz is also under investigation for alleged complicity in corruption and fraud. Later, the investigation against the Chancellor and nine other persons was reported to the Austrian Prosecutor’s Office to investigate economic and corruption crimes.
What exactly is Kuts accused of?
According to the investigation, from 2016 to 2018, the Ministry of Finance of the country used funds from the budget “to finance exclusively party-politically motivated, sometimes manipulated polls conducted by a public opinion research company in the interests of a political party and its senior official.” The data from these surveys appeared in the Austrian daily and were not labeled as advertisements.
A terrible crime, of course! Blood runs cold! And how is it that we have polls commissioned by the government, where they praise it, publish it in the official media, which the government itself maintains with money from the budget?
Kurtz himself pleads not guilty. According to him, he does not understand why they always want to make him guilty when something illegal happens somewhere. Or similar to illegal. Or something that is frankly far-fetched.
Kurz also noted that all investigations against him are being conducted without specific evidence, recalled the presumption of innocence and stressed that the decision on guilt can be made not by the public, but by the court. In addition, he stated that he “is using the opportunity to refute the charges and prove them inconsistent.”
In Russia, they said that Kurz’s resignation was an internal affair of the country. As the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation noted, Austria is a European country that retains its view on the international agenda, on its own development, and in many respects defends exclusively its own point of view.
“This is their internal field, the internal field of Austria. I think they will figure it out on their own, ”she said.
But the question is, do we really care? Kurz was one of the few pragmatists in Europe with whom one could have a dialogue. He sharply criticized the hospitality policy pursued by Germany, called for blocking the flows of illegal migration to the EU and closing Austrian borders from illegal immigrants, advocated a ban on burqa in public places in Austria and supported an integration program for migrants: compulsory study of the German language and Austrian culture. Of course, he was a supporter of the restoration of relations with our country.
Recall that this is the second attempt by the opponents to throw Kurtz off. On December 15, 2017, Kurz reached a coalition agreement with the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party, according to which it received portfolios of key ministers of defense, foreign and internal affairs. And in 2019, Ibiza Gate happened, a scandal around Heinz-Christian Strache, vice-chancellor and leader of the Freedom Party, who allegedly discussed the behind-the-scenes actions and intentions of his party with the niece of a certain Russian oligarch in Ibiza.
On May 27, 2019, the Austrian Parliament passed a vote of no confidence in Sebastian Kurz, the next day he decided to resign. However, in the early parliamentary elections held on September 29, 2019, the Austrian People’s Party won again.
Obviously, Kurz’s opponents did not calm down and decided to strike again. However, the accusations against the Chancellor sound completely ridiculous. Kurz is accused of the fact that the Ministry of Finance used budgetary funds to finance advertisements in exchange for posting opinion polls beneficial to his party, but the fact of the “exchange” has not been proven, and the opinion polls are quite real, which was shown by the election results …
– The question is not in the content, but in the form, – considers Associate Professor of the Department of Foreign Regional Studies and Foreign Policy of the Russian State Humanitarian University Vadim Trukhachev… – The fact is that suspicions have arisen of the use of budget funds for party needs. Of course, the Austrian parties receive state funding, but these funds, apparently, did not come from state funding of the parties. But the fact of the crime here is still far-fetched. This is the maximum fine.
“SP”: – How do you understand this “corruption” scandal? Is someone trying to dump Kurtz? Who are his enemies in Austria?
– Yes, they are trying to knock him down, and he has many enemies. His first enemy is President Alexander van der Bellen. Among his enemies can be attributed and his coalition partners from the “green”. Naturally, the opposition does not like him. In addition, in his own People’s Party, he is disliked by an older asset, which he overshadowed. They all regard Kurtz as an “upstart” who needs to be put in his place. Of course, the immigrant community does not like him either, since he has significantly tightened immigration and religious legislation.
“SP”: – And what is the attitude of the EU to him? Would you like him to leave?
– The European Union is not homogeneous. But Brussels bureaucrats don’t like him. They generally do not like bright, informal politicians, including Kurz. They do not like him in the leadership of Germany. So, Angela Merkel hates him, because he scolded her migration policy. The head of the European Commission does not like him either Ursula von der Leyen, the President of France does not like him Emmanuel Macron… Therefore, all this public could well have been behind the unwinding of this scandal.
“SP”: – Kurtz “leave” for the second time. But last time he managed to return to power. Will it succeed again?
– For the first time, it was not Kurz that “left”, but the Freedom Party, with which he entered into a coalition. It annoys the German leadership, the Brussels bureaucracy and the Austrian president even more. And all of them actually imposed a coalition with the “greens” on Kurtz, which he did not want … He will probably have a chance to return after some time. 35 for a popular politician is almost an “infant” age. Everything should be ahead of him.
“SP”: – Does Russia care about this? Is Kurz beneficial to us as the leader of Austria?
– In principle, relations with Austria are fairly constant. And the nature of her ties with Russia did not change much. Kurz was certainly not pro-Russian. However, he advocated a phased lifting of sanctions, categorically objected to the reduction of economic cooperation, to the rupture of gas projects. For now, the continuity will remain, but it all depends on who will replace him. There is a risk that the “special” relationship with Austria will end. They will not slide into the abyss, but they can become “average” for European countries.
“SP”: – If not Kurtz, then who? Who could replace him, and to what extent will this affect Austria’s position in the world and relations with Russia?
– For now, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg will be Chancellor – a person close enough to Kurz. But further options are possible. The “green” ones may become stronger. And if the post of foreign minister passes to them, relations between Russia and Austria will deteriorate at least at the level of rhetoric. Next, the Austrians will most likely face new elections, and Kurz and the leader of the Social Democrats will already be favorites there. Pamela Randy-Wagner… She is less situated in Russia than Kurz. And if the “greens” and liberals from “New Austria” enter the coalition with it, the current level of Russian-Austrian relations will hardly be preserved. They will worsen, although they will not sink to the level of relations with the neighboring Czech Republic.
– Even being a part of the European Union, Austria still manages to maintain political sovereignty, – I am sure Pavel Feldman, Deputy Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Forecasts of the RUDN University… – The Kurz government openly expressed Eurosceptic sentiments, advocated harmonization of relations with Russia, protested against the uncontrolled influx of migrants. That is why Kurz had serious opponents both in the EU and in the US, who for several years they collected dirt on his political allies. Ibiza Gate was supposed to lead to a change of power in the country, but the organizers of the scandal did not take into account the wide popular support enjoyed by the young chancellor. As a result, Kurtz returned the chair and continued the previous course, which became a powerful irritant for the transnational elite. Too many were interested in dismissing him again, and this time for good: special services, European bureaucrats, representatives of big business.
“SP”: – And now what? Will this resignation be final?
– In my opinion, there are two scenarios for the further development of events. According to the first, the country may plunge into a political crisis, the way out of which will be early parliamentary elections. However, their outcome may turn out to be unpredictable. However, most likely, events will proceed according to the second scenario: the Austrian People’s Party will retain power. While the investigation into Kurz and his party continues, the government will be headed by a purely technical figure, after which Kurz will most likely return to the Chancellor’s office.
“SP”: – Will all this have any meaning for us?
– Unfortunately, during the time of political uncertainty, Russia may lose a constructive partner in Europe, which will delay the normalization of the dialogue between Moscow and its Western partners. The scandal created from scratch in Austria is yet another attempt by the European bureaucracy to drown out the voice of an independent politician who does not want to bend over and compromise his principles.