Sebastian Kurz resigns as Austrian chancellor amid corruption scandal

Kurz, speaking in a televised address on Austrian television, said: “I want to make room for stability.”

However, the 35-year-old chancellor said the corruption allegations against him were “false” and denied using government money for political ends.

Kurz said Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg would become the new chancellor, according to the public broadcaster ORF.

Kurz is under investigation for allegations that government money was used to provide positive coverage in a daily, Austrian prosecutors said on Wednesday.

The Chancellor, along with nine other people and three organizations, is under investigation into the case, according to a statement from the Austrian Attorney General’s Office for Economic Affairs and Corruption (WKStA) released on Wednesday.

According to the prosecutor, searches were carried out Wednesday in several places, including two government departments, as part of the investigation.

The statement said: “Between 2016 and at least 2018, the budget funds of the Ministry of Finance were used to exclusively finance partisan-motivated surveys, sometimes manipulated, carried out by an opinion research company in the interests of a political party and its leadership.

The period indicated in the attorney general’s statement corresponds to when Kurz took over the leadership of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), leading him to government through a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party after the elections. legislative 2017.

“The results of the investigation were published (without being declared as an advertisement) in the editorial section of an Austrian daily and other media belonging to the same group,” the statement said, adding that “alleged payments were made. made in return to the media company. ”

Austrian media have identified the daily involved in the case as the tabloid daily Österreich (Austria), which has dismissed the charges and denied any wrongdoing in multiple opinion pieces published this week.

Kurz remains party leader

The corruption allegations against Kurz have caused a crisis in the Austrian government. Before Kurz resigned on Saturday, opposition parties threatened to bring a vote of no confidence against him in parliament on Tuesday.

Elected to the Chancellery in 2017, Kurz skillfully turned one of Europe’s biggest crises – the 2015 refugee influx – into a winner at the polls.

Kurz came to power just as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s grip on neighboring Germany appeared to be weakening. He seemed keen to dismantle at least part of his approach to welcoming migrants and to bring the continent on a tougher path, despite his regular insistence on supporting the European project.

His party was the driving force behind a law banning the full veil of Muslims in public spaces in 2017.

A Chancellery spokesperson told CNN on Sunday that Kurz would remain chairman of the ÖVP and head of the parliamentary caucus. Kurz “enjoys the full support of the People’s Party”.

Kurz said he was resigning so that “the coalition can continue to work in the interests of the Austrian people,” the spokesperson said, adding that none of the searches carried out by prosecutors “concerned Kurz himself” .

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