Corruption allegations: will Kurz remain in office?

Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is coming under growing pressure after it emerged on Wednesday that he and several close confidants are under investigation for corruption. The Greens have said they will only continue their coalition with Kurz's party the ÖVP with a different person as head of government, but Kurz is refusing to step down. He is now facing a vote of no confidence - and the country its third elections in four years.

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Kurier (AT) /

We need a new chancellor

The ÖVP should continue the coalition under another leader, the Kurier demands:

“Kurz is no longer viable as head of government. Some may feel sorry for him (many will cheer), but there is simply too much on the table: Kurz apparently assumed the leadership of the party and the state by misusing taxpayers' money. That is the serious accusation. Whether he himself or people in his entourage falsified the invoices makes a difference in terms of criminal law, but not politically. Kurz should assume responsibility and not lose his dignity in his departure by pinning the blame on his colleagues.”

Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

Elections looming once more

Austria now faces a long period of paralysis, the Salzburger Nachrichten fears:

“It is pretty clear that Kurz will not step down voluntarily, which would be a prerequisite for the coalition to make a fresh start under a new chancellor. ... Or it could be - and that's what it was looking like on Thursday - that the Greens will agree to the opposition's motion of no confidence. That would end not only Kurz's chancellorship but also the coalition, and the most likely outcome would be new elections. That would mean six months of election campaigning and, in the not so far-fetched case that Sebastian Kurz wins the election, an endless period of exploratory talks. After all, the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) has now lost all its potential coalition partners.”

La Stampa (IT) /

House of Cards à la Viennese

The whole affair is like a thriller, La Stampa comments:

“It's a sort of House of Cards, Viennese style. The intrigue dates back to 2016, when Kurz, at the time a young foreign minister with high hopes, wanted to win over and revitalise the ÖVP and then run for office. ... Now suspicions are being raised that the former minister and his staff used public funds from the Ministry of Finance to finance 1.3 million euros worth of surveys and advertising that provided positive coverage. ... Kurz and his staff allegedly set it all up for party political purposes, only it was paid for with public funds, as Kurz had no access to the ÖVP coffers.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Put an end to paid propaganda

Buying the media by purchasing advertising space is an established practice in Austria, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reminds readers:

“Since all governments have profited from it until now, it has never been reformed. Chancellor Kurz has showered more money on well-meaning media than anyone before him; he probably buys his popularity in part with this practice. Now there are indications that he may even have used this method to secure the chancellorship. ... It's possible that there will be new elections. But after that, the corruption involving ads must end. It's nothing but paid propaganda.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Old style, not new

The ad affair could be the end of Sebastian Kurz's career, writes Die Presse:

“The current accusations are well supported by chat transcripts. The turquoise Austrian People's Party is on the verge of imploding, the turquoise-green government on the verge of explosion. ... If Kurz survives this politically - and one wonders how that could be possible - then the 'new style' of the Austrian People's Party will have definitely outlived its usefulness. It won't get very far with that anymore. The state as a self-service store for the party's own purposes is a very old style.”

Kleine Zeitung (AT) /

The prosecution must come up with the goods now

The Kleine Zeitung says Kurz's chancellorship still has good chances of surviving this scandal:

“If the accusations against the governing party and the searches at the chancellery and the ministry of finance collapse like a house of cards because the investigations fail to prove anything, then not only the Prosecutors' Office for Economic Affairs and Corruption but also the entire judiciary and the rule of law in Austria will have a big problem on their hands. Critics could then argue that the prosecutors are not operating on solid ground but fishing in the dark in the hope of getting lucky.”