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Austria’s Sebastian Kurz steps down as chancellor amid corruption claims

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Sebastian Kurz has denied any wrongdoing, reiterating that the allegations against him were “false”.

Vienna, Austria:

Austria’s Sebastian Kurz announced on Saturday that he was stepping down as chancellor after he was pressured to resign after being embroiled in a corruption scandal.

His announcement in a televised media statement marked a spectacular rise in politics and a four-year turmoil as chancellor, in which his government had already fallen once.

Kurz – who became the world’s youngest democratically elected leader in 2017 – said he wanted to “create a place to stop the anarchy”.

“We need stability,” said the 35-year-old conservative, adding that it would be “irresponsible” to allow Austria to “slide into months of chaos or stalemate”, while an EU member of nearly nine million members of the European Union. fights with.

Pressure on Kurz to resign, including his own junior coalition ally the Greens, began after prosecutors raided several locations linked to his People’s Party (OeVP) on Wednesday.

They announced that Kurz and nine other individuals were under investigation for claims that government funds were used in a corrupt deal between 2016 and 2018 to ensure positive media coverage.

Kurz denied any wrongdoing, reiterating Saturday that the allegations against him were “false”.

“I’ll be able to explain it; I’m sure of it,” he said calmly.

– ‘Critical Steps’

Kurz said he would suggest Foreign Minister Alexander Schellenberg as the new chancellor, while he remains as OEVP leader and an MP in parliament.

Describing Kurz’s resignation as a “right and important step”, vice chancellor and Greens leader Werner Kogler said he would meet with Schalenberg on Sunday to discuss how the coalition would continue to govern.

Kogler on Friday asked the OEVP to name another chancellor, saying Kurz was “no longer fit for office”.

But opposition parties criticized the Greens for continuing to work with the OEVP despite allegations of corruption.

Social Democrats (SPOE) leader Pamela Randy-Wagner said Kurz would continue to pull strings “from the shadows”.

By stepping down, Kurz avoids facing a parliamentary no-confidence motion, which he was expected to lose after turning against the Greens.

In 2019, his alliance with the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) broke down when his ally was embroiled in a corruption scandal called “Ibizgate”.

But in the latest elections, once again Kurz’s OEVP came out on top.

‘Human with feelings and mistakes’

According to prosecutors, in the latest scandal, the main allegation is that between 2016 and 2018, the finance ministry’s resources were used to “fund partially manipulated opinion polls that were specifically aimed at party political interests.” used to serve”.

This relates to the time period in which Kurz, already a government minister, took over the leadership of the OEVP and later of the Alpine nation at the helm of the alliance with the FPO.

Prosecutors allege that payments were made to an unnamed media company – widely believed to be the Osterreich tabloid – in exchange for publishing these surveys.

While Kurz has denied any wrongdoing, he said some of the text messages written by him that have been leaked from investigative files were created in the “heat of the moment”.

“I’m just human with feelings and mistakes,” he said.

The OEVP-Green coalition – the first at a national level – entered office in January 2020 and has already come under strain at times over other corruption scandals and differences over questions such as refugee policy.

Thousands demonstrated in front of the OEVP headquarters in central Vienna late Thursday, demanding Kurz’s resignation, waving signs that read “against corruption” and “shame on you”.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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