Austria's former vice-chancellor convicted of corruption
Former Austrian vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache has been given a fifteen-month suspended prison sentence for corruption in office. The former leader of the right-wing populist Austria Freedom Party (FPÖ) was accused of helping to change a law so a friend could secure public funding for his private clinic in return for party donations and holidays. The corruption case first came to light in the Ibizagate video. Strache plans to appeal the conviction.
The courts are taking charge
It is not the politicians but the courts that are paving the way for a new style in Austrian politics, writes the Wiener Zeitung:
“The verdict can be interpreted as an indication that not only the prosecuting authorities are holding the officials of the republic and the powerful in politics, society and business strictly to the letter of the law, but the courts are also following this line of argument. It is thus the courts that are insisting on a new style of politics, not the politicians whose promises have proved to be empty time and again.”
A long way to a clean state
Collusion and secret deals are far more deeply entrenched in Austrian society than many people realise, Der Standard fears:
“All the investigations and enquiry board findings give the impression that government action in Austria is much like a horse ride along a red line. The bad riders cannot remain on course and get caught from time to time while the better ones make it safely to the finishing line. ... The road to a clean state is nonetheless long, possibly much longer than expected. The fact that the freedom of information legislation [which abolishes official secrecy and aims to make the state more transparent] has been so long in coming shows how much the many different actors - from municipalities to the state to the federal government - want to remain undisturbed. But this ruling and others show that there is no alternative to the fight against corruption.”