…Austria’s Vice-Chancellor to resign ahead of EU elections
Austrian far-right ministers on Monday were ready to leave their positions after a corruption scandal caused the coalition government to collapse, the party leader said.
Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has called for fresh elections after a camera sting forced his deputy, Heinz-Christian Strache from the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), to resign on Saturday, just ahead of the EU elections.
Since then media speculation has been mounting that Kurz also wants controversial far-right Interior Minister Herbert Kickl out.
“We will give up our government offices if Interior Minister Herbert Kickl is forced out,” said Norbert Hofer, who is infrastructure minister and took over the FPOe leadership from Strache on Sunday.
Strache stepped down as vice-chancellor and FPOe leader after recordings published by German media Friday showed him offering government contracts in return for campaign help to a fake Russian backer in a villa on the resort island of Ibiza.
Elsewhere in the footage, Strache appears to hint at ways political donations could escape legal scrutiny.
Kickl was FPOe secretary general at the time when any political donations would have been made. Strache on Saturday denied the party had received illegal funds.
“It is clear Herbert Kickl cannot probe himself,” Kurz was quoted by the Kurier newspaper on Monday.
He said the recordings were the final straw in a string of FPOe-related scandals.
Perhaps the most damaging recent controversy linked to interior minister Kickl was last year’s raids on the domestic intelligence agency BVT.
Numerous documents were seized, raising fears among Austria’s Western partners about the possibility of leaks to Moscow.
The FPOe has a cooperation agreement with President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.