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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announces resignation

October 9, 2021

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said he plans to step down, with the country's foreign minister to take his place.

Sebastian Kurz
Kurz has been embroiled in allegations that his party used government funds to gain favorable media coverageImage: Georg Hochmuth/APA/dpa/picture alliance

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Saturday announced that he would step down amid allegations of financial impropriety against his office.

Kurz said he would move to parliament as leader of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP). Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg will replace him as chancellor, he said.

"My country is more important to me than myself," Kurz said in a televised statement.

"What we need now are stable conditions,'' he told reporters in Vienna. "So, in order to resolve the stalemate, I want to make way to prevent chaos and ensure stability."

What are the allegations against him?

Earlier this week, Austrian prosecutors said the chancellor and nine other individuals were being probed for bribery after investigators carried out raids on the offices of his ruling party.

Though the ÖVP backed him against the allegations, the junior coalition partner, the Greens, demanded his resignation on Friday.

Vice-Chancellor and Greens leader Werner Kogler argued that Kurz was "no longer fit for office" and called on the ÖVP to nominate an "irreproachable person" to replace him.

Kurz and his associates are accused of using public funds from the Finance Ministry to "finance partially manipulated opinion polls that served an exclusively party political interest" between 2016 and 2018.

In 2017, Kurz took over the leadership of the right-wing ÖVP and subsequently became chancellor as the head of a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ).

He and nine other people, as well as three organizations, are under investigation over the alleged offenses, prosecutors said.

Announcing his resignation on Saturday, Kurz insisted again that the accusations against him "are false and I will be able to clear this up… I am deeply convinced of that."

Second stint as chancellor

Kurz previously resigned as chancellor in May 2019, pulling the plug on the coalition with the FPÖ over the so-called Ibiza-gate corruption scandal.

A video showed then FPÖ chief Heinz-Christian Strache — who was also the vice-chancellor at the time — appearing to offer public contracts in exchange for campaign help.

Since the scandal, investigators have launched several investigations into alleged corruption, some of them targeting top ÖVP politicians such as Finance Minister Blümel.

Kurz started his second term as the head of government in January 2020, leading a coalition with the Green party as the junior partner.