Austria's Kurz Calls for Snap Election After Deputy's Video Scandal

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pulls plug on coalition, says 'enough is enough' after video leaked of deputy attempting to strike corrupt deal

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz gives a press conference in Vienna, May 18, 2019.
\ LEONHARD FOEGER/ REUTERS

Conservative Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called for a snap election on Saturday, after his deputy Heinz-Christian Strache resigned over the leaking of a video showing him making a corrupt deal.

The video showed Strache attempting to make a deal with a woman pretending to be a representative of a Russian oligarch. The two discussed hundreds of millions of euros in campaign support for Austria's far-right Freedom Party in return for government contracts and the "removal of barriers."

"Enough is enough," Kurz said in a statement to the media, listing several lesser scandals involving the Freedom Party that did not cause their coalition to collapse. He said he would propose to Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen that a snap election be held as soon as possible. 

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Kurz addressed speculations as to who was behind the framing of his deputy, stating that "the tactics resemble those of Tal Silberstein," an Israeli political adviser who worked with Austria's Social Democratic party and allegedly employed an anti-Semitic campaign to counter Kurz

Screenshot showing Austrian vice-Chancellor Hans-Christian Strache in leaked video.
Screenshot/Der Spiegel video

Kurz added that his two years as prime minister have been difficult: "I had to deal with several scandals. Even if I didn't always say it to the public, it was difficult for me, but I tried to not pull the plug on the coalition over minor affairs." Kurz also acknowledged the extreme right and anti-Semitic leanings of some of his party members.

As for Strache's claims in the leaked video that Sebastian Kurz is gay and partakes in sex orgies, the chancellor refused to comment, adding that such matters are unimportant.