Russian Scandal Rocks Austria's Government

Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache is out
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 18, 2019 2:10 PM CDT
Top Austrian Official Quits Amid Russian Scandal
In this Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018 file photo, Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, from left, hold a joint press conference after one year of government in Austria at the Hofburg palace in Vienna, Austria.   (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called for an early election after his vice chancellor resigned Saturday over a covertly shot video that showed him apparently promising government contracts to a purported Russian investor, the AP reports. Kurz said he would ask President Alexander Van der Bellen to set a date for a new election "as soon as possible." Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache resigned after two German publications, the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and the weekly Der Spiegel, on Friday published extracts of a covert video purportedly showing Strache offering Austrian government contracts to a Russian woman who was allegedly interested in investing large amounts of money in Austria.

Strache's far-right, anti-immigrant Freedom Party is the smaller partner in Austria's ruling government coalition with Kurz's People's Party. At a news conference late Saturday, Kurz said talks with remaining officials from the Freedom Party showed they were not willing to make the changes Kurz felt necessary to continue the current coalition. Kurz also said a possible coalition with the center-left Social Democrats would derail the government's program of limiting debt and taxes. Strache's resignation was a black eye for the populist and nationalist forces who favor tighter European immigration policies. It came only a few days before the May 23-26 elections in 28 European Union nations to fill the European Parliament.

(Read more political scandal stories.)

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