Austria’s Sebastian Kurz under fire for far-right coalition

Austria's Sebastian Kurz under fire for far-right coalition

The resignation of Austria’s far-right Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache has led German politicians to warn against political alliances with populists. Many are now demanding new elections in Austria.

German politicians lined up on Saturday to call for new elections in Austria following the resignation of Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), following an alleged corruption scandal.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of Germany’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the favorite to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel, said the scandal showed that far-right populists in Europe were prepared to sell the interests of their country for their own benefit.

“These people must not be allowed to take on any responsibility in Europe,” Kramp-Karrenbauer told a local party conference in the northern city of Cuxhaven.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said European politicians need to stand up to far-right politicians willing to sell out their voters.

“We are confronted with currents… that want to destroy the Europe of our values, and we must stand up to that decisively,” Merkel said.

CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak followed Merkel and Kramp-Karrenbauer’s lead, telling the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that, “for right-wing populists, it’s always about themselves, never about politics for the people.”

Strache’s resignation has left Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), with an awkward choice between the political uncertainty of new elections and attempting to maintain his right-wing coalition with a new FPÖ leader. Austrian media reported Kurz would call for new elections in a speech later on Saturday.

A spontaneous demonstration of some 2,000 to 3,000 people demanding new elections has gathered outside the Chancellery in Vienna.

On Friday, German media outlets Der Spiegel and the Süddeutsche Zeitung released a video from 2017 that appeared to show Strache offering public contracts in exchange for favorable media coverage to a woman claiming to be the niece of a Russian oligarch. Strache resigned on Saturday, claiming he had been illegally entrapped.

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