Government crisis in Vienna: President Van der Bellen lets party leaders stand

The opposition is already certain: Kurz cannot remain Chancellor “without Austria being harmed”. A vote of no confidence is already being planned. Kurz himself vehemently denies being involved in the alleged corruption.

After allegations of corruption against Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the co-governing Greens and the opposition are massively increasing the pressure on the conservative head of government. “We can not go over to the agenda, the ability of the Federal Chancellor to act is questioned against this background,” said Greens Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler in a statement. In view of the government crisis, Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen asked the heads of all parties to meet in the presidential office.

On Wednesday, public prosecutors searched the Federal Chancellery and the party headquarters of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), among other things. According to the Economic and Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (WKStA), Kurz’s close colleagues are suspected of having bought well-meaning reporting in a media company in order to pave the way for Kurz to become party leaders and the Federal Chancellery from 2016 onwards. For this money from the Ministry of Finance is said to have been misappropriated. The investigators see in Kurz a participant in the crimes of infidelity and corruption. The 35-year-old has denied all allegations.

The opposition parties announced a vote of no confidence in parliament in the coming days if Kurz does not resign. “He can no longer carry out this function and this office without harming it, without harming Austria,” said the head of the social democratic SPÖ, Pamela Rendi-Wagner. The heads of the liberal Neos and the right-wing FPÖ expressed themselves similarly. However, the opposition parties did not call for a new election.

Greens: “Have coalition with ÖVP, not with Sebastian Kurz”

In order to vote Kurz out of office in parliament, the opposition would need votes from the Greens, who govern with the ÖVP. The Green party leader Kogler did not mention this option in a statement, but he announced talks with all parliamentary parties. “We have to work together to ensure stability and clarification, and that is why I would like to advise on how to proceed across parties,” he said. A vice parliamentary group leader of the Greens, Olga Voglauer, indirectly brought Kurz’s withdrawal into play as a step to continue the government. “We have a coalition with the ÖVP, not with Sebastian Kurz,” she said.

Kurz made it clear in a TV interview on Wednesday evening that he was not thinking of resigning. On Thursday, the heads of the ÖVP organizations from all nine federal states strengthened their backs. “We (…) assume that the criminally relevant allegations will turn out to be false and can also be clarified,” they said. “In the current situation in particular, it is definitely crucial for our country that we continue to have a stable federal government headed by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.”