Heinz-Christian Strache is withdrawing from politics and suspending his membership in Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), he said on Tuesday morning.
"Out of loyalty for my supporters, it is essential that I avert any further damage to the Freedom Party and prevent any internal divisions," said Strache at a press conference in Vienna.
Read more: Austria: Secret video ensnares far-right leader
Strache, who led the FPÖ for 14 years, also served as vice chancellor from 2017 to 2019, before he was forced out of the government in May when video footage emerged of him appearing to offer public contracts in exchange for campaign help from what turned out to be a fake Russian backer in Ibiza.
The "Ibiza" scandal, as it became known, led to Strache losing his job in a vote of confidence supported by left-leaning parties and conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. At the time, the FPÖ was the junior coalition party to Kurz's conservative People's Party.
The government then called for a snap election, which was held on Sunday. The FPÖ suffered a heavy loss, winning just 16% of the vote, down 10 percentage points from 2017.
Read more: Austria's far right loses ground as Sebastian Kurz wins landslide
Until Tuesday, Strache had left open the possibility of seeking public office again in the future. The former vice chancellor is also under investigation for the alleged misuse of party funds. In Tuesday's press conference, he repeated his claim that he was the victim of a conspiracy against his party.
knp/rc (AP, dpa)
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