Chancellor Kurz, suspected of corruption, announces his resignation

Austrian Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced his resignation on Saturday evening. He is suspected of being involved in a corruption case.

“It would be irresponsible to slip into months of chaos or deadlock,” he told reporters in Vienna, explaining that he was withdrawing for the “stability” of the country while refuting “false accusations”.

‘I want to give way to avoid chaos,’ he added, saying he proposed the name of his foreign minister, Alexander Schallenberg, to succeed him.

Under pressure

Since the announcement Wednesday by the prosecution of the opening of an investigation against him for corruption, Sebastian Kurz was under pressure to withdraw.

The 35-year-old leader had so far refused, denouncing ‘fabricated’ allegations. But the Greens, the government’s minority partners, have increased their criticism over the days.

On Friday, the vice-chancellor and leader of the environmentalists, Werner Kogler, had ruled that Mr. Kurz was “no longer fit to perform his duties”, after talks with the leaders of the other parties.

The conservatives (ÖVP) must now come up with someone ‘blameless’, he said. Parliament was also due to meet next Tuesday in an extraordinary session to vote on a motion of censure tabled by the opposition.

‘Just human’

Mr Kurz is believed to have used government funds in the past to secure favorable media coverage.

According to the prosecution, between 2016 and 2018, laudatory articles and opinion studies ‘partially manipulated’ were published in exchange for the purchase of advertising space by the Ministry of Finance, managed at the time by the conservatives.

Mr. Kurz and nine other suspects, as well as three organizations, are under investigation for various offenses related to this case. Searches took place on Wednesday, in particular at the headquarters of the conservative ÖVP party and at the chancellery.

The prosecutors’ case is based on obtaining telephone messages. “I’ll be able to shed some light, I’m sure,” Kurz said, noting that these texts were written “on the spur of the moment.” ‘I’m just human, with emotions and mistakes,’ he insisted.

Return to power in 2020

Entering the government as Secretary of State ten years ago and then becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sebastian Kurz first took up the Chancellery in December 2017.

Associated with the far-right party FPÖ, he saw his government swept away in May 2019 by a corruption scandal, known as Ibizagate.

He then returned to power in January 2020, this time alongside the Greens, a coalition that had already been challenged several times due to other cases and different views on the refugee issue.