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Austria’s Government Teeters as Sebastian Kurz Faces Corruption Probe

Austria’s Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz’s government is on the verge of collapse after federal prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into him this week on suspicion of using government funds to vote in favor and pay for news articles. It wobbled.

Befitting the young face of European conservatism, Kurtz vehemently denied the charges. But he is now facing a call to resign, as three opposition parties will vote no confidence in the special parliament next week.

President Alexander van der Beren addressed the public on Friday evening to reassure the Austrians that the latest crisis had occurred. Threatening the government, the country’s democratic system remained intact and functioning.

“We have a government crisis, not a national crisis,” Van der Beren said. “Our democracy is prepared for all possible situations, including this.”

The future of the Austrian government will depend on the left-wing Greens, a junior coalition partner who has always been an unpleasant political companion with Mr. Kurtz and campaigned on a “clean political” platform.

A prominent voice of the Greens believes it cannot support its position and support for the government under the prime minister, who is suspected of using funds from the Treasury to pay for active media coverage.

They are now calling on another member of his Nationalist Party to take over as prime minister. Without it, they could withdraw from the ruling coalition and try to form a new government with a combination of smaller opposition parties, albeit in short supply in parliament. If all goes wrong, the country may face new elections.

“Such a person can no longer carry out his mission, and of course the People’s Party is responsible for appointing someone beyond blame to lead this government,” said Siji, the leader of Parliament’s Greens. Maurer said. Kurtz.

Mr. Kurtz, 35, he says he is determined to cling. After taking control of the conservative People’s Party, he became prominent and remade it by adopting many of the far-right messages when anti-immigrant populism was booming in Europe.

After a fierce social media-savvy campaign, Kurtz focused primarily on patriotic themes and a strong attitude towards migration. After the 2017 election, he became Austria’s youngest prime minister when he created a government, including the far-right Liberal Party.

Less than two years later, after the far right was caught in a scandal, the government collapsed and in exchange for financial support from a woman who claimed to be a wealthy Russian, the then leader of the Liberal Party was with the government. A video has appeared showing that we have promised a contract.

In the new 2019 elections, Mr. Kurtz regained the lead, but pivoted to form a government with the leftist Greens, demonstrating his skills as a political diversion.

Currently, it is Mr. Kurtz who is suspected of ethical violations that may disrupt his latest government.

A federal prosecutor in Austria told Kurtz and nine others on Wednesday that he had launched a criminal investigation on suspicion of misusing government funds to poll the press and pay for articles. After being elected prime minister.

“Between 2016 and at least 2018, the Federal Ministry of Finance’s budget funds were used to fund investigations conducted by voting companies in the interests of political parties and their top executives,” the Prosecutor’s Office said.

The prosecution said the poll results were published “without being declared as advertisements” in media belonging to the Austrian Media Group. The prosecution said it suspected that “payments had been made to the media conglomerate” in exchange for favorable coverage.

The prime minister denied it. Kurtz spoke to reporters in Vienna on Thursday to meet with Van der Beren.

“Just as an independent judiciary is an important pillar of our democracy, so is the presumption of innocence, which is essential to the rule of law,” Kurtz said. “At least it used to be.”

Mr Kurtz and his Conservative leaders have so far rejected the call for him to set aside and go around the wagon instead.

“Today’s People’s Party leaders have made it very clear that they want to stay in this government only under the guidance of Sebastian Kurz,” said Elizabeth Kestinger, a party member and Minister of Tourism of the Kurz administration. Told to.

Mr. Kurtz has been an unchallengeed leader since taking over the leadership of the People’s Party, said Alexandra Ziegle, a political analyst at the Peter Hajek National Opinion Strategy in Vienna.

“It can be said that the People’s Party in recent years has been Sebastian Kurz.” She said. “There is no nationally well-known person in the party, and no obvious successor.”

However, there is no easy way for your opponent to take power. Unless a few Greens lawmakers join the support, the three opposition parties lack the majority needed for a successful distrust resolution.

On Thursday, Greens leaders met with a respondent from the Socialist Party, the largest opposition in Congress, to find a solution.

Even if they joined forces with the smaller liberal Neos Party, they still lacked a majority and could only survive by securing the support of the far-right Liberal Party. It’s a nasty and potentially volatile proposal in itself.

“It is imperative that Mr. Kurtz resign,” Herbert Kickle, the current leader of the Liberal Party, told reporters on Friday. He showed nothing about whether his party was willing to support a three-party minority government led by socialists.

If that is not possible, Austria could face new elections. This is the area where Mr. Kurtz has shown twice that he knows how to act. Meanwhile, Greens has been declining in support since 2019, and such a move could jeopardize two signature bills that have been consulted with the government but have not yet passed.

However, an ongoing criminal investigation into Mr. Kurtz to determine if there is sufficient evidence to push the accusation may make it impossible for Greens to not bolt.

On Friday, the prosecution made more documents available showing the text message exchange between Mr. Kelts and his adviser. We call on then-Prime Minister Christian Kern to “stir” the region.

“This solidifies suspicions about him,” Ziegle said. Nevertheless, it may not be enough to undermine Mr. Kurtz’s popularity among Austrians, especially among a core group of supporters. She said she would continue to support his hard line on migration.

“They push it sideways and say that if you look hard enough, every politician has something to hide,” she said. “No one likes to admit that they were taken to the ride.”

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