Vienna, May 21 (IANS) All ministers from Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPO) have resigned, throwing the government into chaos.
The Freedom Party’s leader Heinz-Christian Strache, who was also vice-chancellor, was forced to resign at the weekend after a video sting, the BBC reported on Monday.
Strache was filmed proposing to offer government contracts to a supposed Russian oligarch’s niece.
The FPO threatened a mass resignation earlier on Monday if Interior Minister Herbert Kickl was also forced out.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had called over the weekend for Kickl to be sacked, saying that as general secretary of the party he should take responsibility for the scandal.
The scandal broke on Friday when footage from 2017 was published in German media, showing Strache and another FPO official proposing to offer government contracts to a supposed Russian oligarch’s niece.
Strache resigned the next day and Kurz – the head of the centre-right People’s Party (OVP) — said new elections would have to be held.
The resigning FPO ministers include the foreign minister and ministers for defence, transport, and social affairs. The FPO made up half of the country’s cabinet.
The video scandal comes at a particularly awkward time for the party. Voters across the EU go to the polls on May 23-26, in European Parliament elections widely expected to boost the numbers of far-right and other Eurosceptic MEPs.
Before the scandal broke, the FPO was expected to score about 20 per cent in the European elections.
It is not known who recorded the video published on Friday. Neither is it clear who set up the meeting, which allegedly took place at a villa on the Spanish island of Ibiza in July 2017 – before the FPO joined the new government.
The video shows Strache and Johann Gudenus – another FPO politician – relaxing on sofas, drinking and talking to a woman who claims to be a wealthy Russian national looking to invest in Austria.
In the footage, the woman offers to buy a 50 per cent stake in Austria’s Kronen Zeitung newspaper and switch its editorial position to support the Freedom Party.