Austria’s Kurz proposes sacking interior minister as video scandal spirals
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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has proposed sacking interior minister Herbert Kickl, after Kickl refused to resign in the wake of a video detailing alleged corruption on the part of Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache.
Kickl is a member of Strache’s Freedom Party (FPO), and refused to resign after Strache stepped down on Saturday. The 32-year-old Chancellor argued that Kickl’s job could be overseen by a non-political appointee until fresh elections could be held.
A press conference with actual questions but still not much clarity. Kurz has asked the Austrian president to dismiss FPÖ interior minister Kickl. The interior ministry, given its sensitive job, should be overseen by a group of technocrats, Kurz suggested, until the election. pic.twitter.com/BBFq8zcAvp
— Sam Gad Jones (@samgadjones) May 20, 2019
Kurz argued that as interior minister, Kickl could not properly oversee an investigation into the leader of his own party. Kickl, meanwhile, accused Kurz of launching a power grab on behalf of his Austrian People’s Party (OVP).
Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen has the power to dismiss Kickl. The FPO have promised to withdraw all of their ministers from government if this were to happen, but Kurz has said he will fill their seats until snap elections could be held.
The video scandal currently engulfing Austrian politics began on Friday, after a video surfaced showing Stache meeting with the supposed niece of a Russian oligarch in Ibiza in 2017 to discuss a quid-pro-quo deal. Stache called the tape’s surfacing a “political assassination,” and though Kurz outright condemned Stache’s alleged corruption, he too hinted in interviews that dirty tricks were afoot.
“Concerning the methods, this strongly reminds me of Tal Silberstein, the campaign aide of the SPÖ (Social Democrats) in 2017,” he told German tabloid Bild, referencing the Israeli political strategist who allegedly oversaw a smear campaign against Kurz in the runup to Austria’s 2017 election.
As Austria’s coalition government implodes over the scandal, Vienna-based political scientist Heinz Gaertner told RT that the fallout will be severe and long-lasting.
“No matter what the intention of this video was, it did damage to the Freedom Party,” he said. “They claimed to clean up Austria’s corruption and it showed they are corrupted themselves.”
“Even in the right wing parties in Europe they say ‘that is not what we want for our parties.’ It will be a negative example for politicians for some time to come.”
Snap elections are expected in September.
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