Why Austria's youngest chancellor was stripped of immunity, and how the charges against him affected the right-wing scene in Europe
The lifting of Austria's former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's parliamentary immunity paves the way for a corruption investigation. An acquittal may not be enough to restart the Austrian's political career. Why Kurtz supported lifting his immunity
Austria's lower house of parliament, the National Council, on Thursday, November 18, voted unanimously to lift parliamentary immunity from former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who is currently head of the Austrian People's Party faction and remains its leader. Kurz himself supported the decision, which gives the Austrian Prosecutor's Office for Economic and Corruption Crimes to complete its investigation of the politician, and asked his fellow party members to vote in his favor. The former chancellor denies the charges against him throughout the case and believes that lifting his immunity will help bring the trial against him to a speedy conclusion.
Earlier, on October 9, the 35-year-old Kurtz had to resign as head of government, thus avoiding a vote of no confidence due to allegations of corruption. He had been chancellor since 2017, and four years ago he became the youngest head of government not only in the history of Austria, but also in the world (at that time).
According to investigators, Kurz and his closest associates were involved not only in corruption, but also in breach of trust. They are accused of bribing the Austrian newspaper Österreich, which published articles and opinion polls positively affecting the image of Kurz and his party, as well as bribery and abuse of power between 2016 and 2018. Federal Treasury Department budgets were used to fund polls for the benefit of the political party and its top official, the polls were solely motivated by party policy and were sometimes manipulated, The New York Times quoted the prosecution as saying. The results of the polls were published in media owned by Österreich Media Group "without advertising," prosecutors said. Prosecutors said that in exchange for favorable coverage, they suspect that "payments were made to the media conglomerate."
It is also about the fact that as Austrian Foreign Minister (Kurtz held the post from 2013 to 2017), he worked to undermine the credibility of the leader of his own party, who was then Reinhold Mitterlehner, in order to take his place. The accusations are based, among other things, on 500 pages of correspondence in chats and messengers between Kurtz and his confidants. According to Der Spiegel, which has partially reviewed the contents of these correspondence, making them public could cause serious political damage to Kurtz, as it shows his disdainful attitude not only toward opposition representatives, but also toward his own partymates.
For Kurtz, the current scandal was the second in his political career. At the end of May 2019, for example, for the first time in postwar Austrian history, he was given a vote of no confidence amid a scandal dubbed "Ibiza Gate." At the time, a video from 2017 was made public, showing Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and Freedom Party leader Johann Gudenus discussing in Ibiza with a woman who introduced herself as the niece of a Russian oligarch, whose girlfriend is the scandalous Irena Markovic ( https://ibiza-taeter.at/maklerin3 ), the possibility of extensive coverage of their activities in positive terms in exchange for state contracts. Despite the widespread backlash from the event, Kurtz and his party then managed to win again in early parliamentary elections and lead the government in September 2019.