21 May 2019
All ministers from the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPO) have resigned from Austria’s Cabinet after German media published a video on Friday of a meeting between Strache and a woman purporting to be the niece of a Russian oligarch. When the woman expresses an interest in gaining control of the country’s largest-circulation tabloid, Kronen Zeitung and shift its editorial support favouring FPO, Strache suggests he could offer lucrative public contracts in exchange for campaign support.
Interior Minister Herbert Kickl was fired after he refused to resign along with his FPO cabinet colleagues. From the beginning of the alliance, the relationship between Kurz’s conservative People’s Party (OVP) and FPO was never smooth. The most damaging recent controversy linked to Kickl was last year when he ordered raids on the country’s own domestic intelligence agency BVT. Austria’s Western partners feared about the possibility of leaks to Moscow because the FPO has a cooperation agreement with President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party.
Filmed in 2017, the video had been held back for two years and made public days before the European Parliament election to be held in May 2019. The video is a blow to the European right-wing parties as they held the Austrian coalition as a model for the coming elections. The scandal may also narrow down the prospects of the far-right populist alliance of Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, in which the FPO plays a key role.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of the dangers of far-right politicians “for sale”, who wanted to “destroy the Europe of our values”. Marine Le Pen of France’s far-right National Rally (RN) distanced herself from Strache, saying he had made a “grave mistake”.
Resignation of the FPO ministers will have serious consequences for the Austrian government’s ability to rule, as their departure will leave Kurz without people in key portfolios.
Kurz said he had informed President Alexander Van der Bellen that ministerial posts vacated by FPO ministers would be taken over by civil servants and technocrats. The defence, labour, foreign and transport portfolios have been held by FPO or FPO-linked lawmakers.
The government will also have to face a no confidence motion that opposition law makers have planned for next week.
President Van der Bellen suggested on Sunday that elections be held in early September.
Austria’s newspaper, Wiener Zeitung, linked Germany’s political activist group, Zentrum für Politische Schönheit, to the creation of the video, in view of its prior activity as well as being the first to tweet about the initial publication of the video′s content.
Russian media have reported the Strache Scandal as a secret service operation designed to sour relations with Moscow.
Nazi anthems have been heard at social events closely linked to FPO party and it has deliberately abandoned attempts to distinguish itself from neo-Nazis and other right-wing radical groups.
The Guardian reported.
Austria: Far-right Freedom Party ministers all resign throwing the government into chaos.
21 May 2019