Austrian Sebastian Kurz “triangulates” to navigate corruption investigations

In four years and two governments (both collapsed in scandals), Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz succeeded in creating a near-unanimous agreement with him across the political spectrum.

Austrian Conservative 35-year-old leader announced him Saturday resignationAfter the country’s overall political opposition and his government partner Greens were revealed, he went as far as thinking of forming their own coalition just to kick him out.

After the police raid last week The news came out Kurtz was a suspect in a corruption investigation, and when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs between 2013 and 2017, he and his allies abused taxpayer money and proactively created fake invoices. Faced with allegations of purchasing a good media coverage. He denied cheating. No one has been charged with a crime.

“My country is more important than I am,” Kurtz, who spoke to the press at Ballhausplatz, where the Prime Minister’s Office is located, on Saturday, citing the need for political stability.

However, you may find that his resignation is a pause rather than an end.

Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, a carefully elected prime minister, is a close ally. Kurtz will continue to be the leader of the People’s Party, which holds 71 ​​of the 183 seats in Parliament. The closest rival, the Social Democratic Party, holds 40 people. As the leader of his party’s parliamentary group, Kurtz retains a seat in the cabinet. As a member of parliament, he enjoys exemption from prosecution.

“He will be the lead of the opposition in a way,” said Austrian political commentator Thomas Hofer. “It was a clever part of political triangulation. He presented it well:” We are in a stalemate, “he said, and I will take responsibility and solve things. It is a person who is trying. I am the one who is still making decisions. It was an idea. ”

Another issue for the opposition is the popularity of Kurtz. In a poll last month, 28% of respondents said they would vote directly for him as prime minister. His closest rival, Social Democratic Party Pamela Lendy Wagner, polled 12 and 35 percent and said he didn’t know who they liked.

Marcus Howe, head of analysis for VE Insights, a Vienna-based political consultancy, said the entire incident was a “car accident” and “very unpredictable.”

Demonstrators © Lisa Leutner / AP in front of the Chancellery in Vienna on Saturday after Sebastian Kurz said he would resign as Head of Government

“But for Kurtz, this puts him back on his forefoot,” he said. “He’s been playing for a while. Imagine from the perspective of overcoming a storm and seeing where things end. Perhaps if he gets over legal issues and the numbers look good enough. He tries to trigger an election. “

“This is a war,” said a senior official at the Prime Minister’s Office.

For now, Kurtz’s Gambit is detaining his Green Coalition Partner.

On Tuesday, Parliament is meeting to discuss a motion of no confidence vote submitted by the Austrian opposition. They need only 6 of the 26 Green MPs to rebel against party leadership to win it.

If the opposition loses motion, the coalition stays there without the need for a new election. But if it passes and the government collapses, especially if it helps the far-right-backed coalition come to power, Greens will face uncertain election prospects. The Social Democratic Party faces the same dilemma.

In the past, the logical ally of Kurtz’s party would have been the populist and right-wing Liberal Party. But after the collapse of Kurtz’s first government in mid-2019, it is no longer an option. The current Liberal leader, Herbert Kickle, never forgives Kurtz. Drive him out As Minister of Interior.

Many Freedom Party ranks and files have a similar thirst for revenge. Indeed, right-wing party leaders say it may be worth it in the long run to give them a chance to return to government if it means ending Kurtz’s political career. Calculate.

Current Foreign Minister nominated as Austrian Prime Minister Alexander Schallenberg © Lisi Niesner / Reuters

Despite the matter of the outcome of the proceedings against him, Kurtz’s greatest challenge may emerge from within his own party.

On Thursday, People’s Party bosses said they couldn’t think of a government without Kurtz in their heads. But the politicians who have reshaped the party’s image over the last five years are relatively outsiders.

Support from local bosses who wield great powers within the party will be important. He can count on the party’s support from the Lower Austrian faction, but the Tyrolean and Upper Austrian factions are showing signs of dissatisfaction, and the question of whether Kurtz will be responsible is currently at the table.

Hundreds of pages of evidence and text messages issued by prosecutors reveal as much damage as legal claims to mercenaries in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Radish malice on WhatsApp — in one message Kurtz calls his predecessor a “predicament” — which can damage his reputation among loyal parties, many of whom are Austrian wealthy. I’m from the middle class. According to analysts, the People’s Party is not sentimental if his voter reputation declines.

Austrian Sebastian Kurz “triangulates” to navigate corruption investigations

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