Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Monday called on the president to sack Interior Minister Herbert Kickl of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) as fallout grows from a hidden-camera corruption sting that has led to the downfall of Austria’s coalition government.
Kurz said that “complete transparency” and a “thorough clarification” were necessary after the scandal.
The move, announced at a press conference in Vienna, could have serious consequences for the Austrian government’s ability to rule, as the FPÖ has warned that all of its Cabinet members would resign if Kurz went ahead with the much-rumored ouster of Kickl from his post. That would leave Kurz without ministers in key portfolios with just days to go until European elections.
Kurz broke up his party’s governing coalition with the FPÖ and called snap elections amid a scandal caused by the emergence of a video showing now ex-Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the FPÖ offering lucrative business deals to a woman posing as a Russian oligarch’s niece.
Strache quit his post as vice chancellor and party chief on Saturday after the video footage of the 2017 meeting in on Spain’s island of Ibiza was released.
Read more:Austria’s FPÖ Freedom Party: A turbulent history
Herbert Kickl, one of the country’s best-known politicians, was chairman of the FPÖ in 2017 when the footage was recorded. As FPÖ secretary general, he would likely have been aware of any illegal donations.
Kurz has previously acknowledged that the scandal “has damaged the image of our country around the world.”
President Alexander Van der Bellen suggested on Sunday that elections be held in early September.
Kurz has repeatedly come under fire from many quarters for his decision to form a coalition government of his conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) with the FPÖ after 2017 elections at which no party received a ruling majority. The marriage has become increasingly uneasy over time amid a series of scandals highlighting links between the far-right party and radical right-wing groups.
tj/ng (dpa, AFP)
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