Far-right bribes scandal sinks Austria coalition

Clay Curtis
May 22, 2019

It comes after Mr Kurz's former interior minister, Herbert Kickl, reportedly said his Freedom Party (FPO), which saw a mass resignation of cabinet members after he was sacked, would support a vote of no confidence.

Two of Kickl's party colleagues were caught on video apparently offering government contracts to a supposed Russian benefactor.

Austria is preparing for an election in September after, what is being labelled, the "Ibiza scandal". The chancellor added that in his conversations with Kickl and other Freedom Party officials following the video's release, he "didn't really have the feeling (they had) an awareness of the dimension of the whole issue".

Earlier on Monday, a poll showed that Austria's Freedom Party (FPO) went from potentially garnering 23 per cent of votes in a prospect snap election to 18 per cent amid the recent scandal involving the party's leader Heinz-Christian Strache, who has since resigned.

President Alexander Van der Bellen confirmed the Freedom Party ministers' exit from cabinet on Tuesday. It's up to Van der Bellen to approve Kurz's proposals.

Austrian Minister of the Interior Herbert Kickl, of the right-wing Freedom Party, addresses the media during a news conference in Vienna, Austria, May 20, 2019.

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A minister from Kurz's party, Gernot Bluemel, told ORF television he expects that Kurz will dismiss Kickl.

Kurz has said the recordings were the final straw in a string of FPOe-related scandals, which have dogged the coalition since its formation in late 2017. In recent months, those have included a poem in a party newsletter comparing migrants to rats and questions over links to extreme-right groups.

The ministers would make good on their threat to resign en masse if Kickl was forced out, the spokesman told the national Austrian Press Agency agency late on Monday.

The Social Democrats' leader, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, said her party did not rule out bringing its own no-confidence motion.

Strache was filmed proposing to offer government contracts to a supposed Russian oligarch's niece. He does not deny the authenticity of the video, but it remains unknown as to who recorded it.

The pending no-confidence vote - submitted by one of the smaller parties in parliament - demonstrates the risky situation Kurz is in.

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