Austria: Is Kurz meddling with the justice system?

Austria's Finance Minister Gernot Blümel of the conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) is under investigation for corruption following allegations that he intervened in favour of gambling company Novomatic in a tax court case in Italy in exchange for party donations. Now Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (also of the ÖVP) has written a letter to the judicial authorities offering to testify in order to refute the "false assumptions and incorrect facts" against his colleague. Commentators see this as a faux pas.

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Der Standard (AT) /

At the very least rash and irresponsible

Der Standard reminds readers of the separation of powers:

“Judges, prosecutors and renowned jurists are shocked or at least gravely concerned about what is happening. ... Either the chancellor's party is extremely nervous - fearful of what might yet come. Or - and this is at least as likely - Kurz and his people are genuinely indignant because they have done nothing wrong. Taking such a benevolent view, it would then be understandable that Kurz feels he is being treated unjustly and therefore thrashing about. But he is the chancellor. He bears responsibility. And that includes letting a prosecutor's office do its work. A head of government who attacks the justice system attacks democracy.”

Die Presse (AT) /

A whiff of Trump

A passage in Kurz's letter reminds Die Presse of the former US president:

“Kurz seems to have a very clean conscience, at least he has surrendered his status as an accused. ... Thus he cannot refuse to give evidence. He should be more precise in his evidence than in his letter, in which, as we know, he warns the prosecutors against damaging their own reputation by making false assumptions - and using 'incorrect facts'. That doesn't just sound like a Trumpism, it is one. It lies in the nature of facts that they cannot be incorrect or alternative. What Kurz meant was incorrect depictions of the facts. And what he probably also meant, but didn't write was dreadfully long proceedings. The latter would admittedly really cause a problem and damage to the political community and all the institutions involved.”