Government crisis in Austria: All about the scandal around Austria’s chancellor

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Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz allegedly got into his position with the help of bribery. Prosecutors suspect that a newspaper published positive survey results for which taxpayers’ money flowed.

The Economic and Corruption Prosecutor’s Office has ordered a search of the Austrian Chancellery, Finance Ministry and the headquarters of Sebastian Kurz’s ÖVP party. Prosecutors are investigating Kurz and some of his close associates on suspicion of embezzlement, bribery and corruption. Starting in 2016, the team around the 35-year-old head of government allegedly used taxpayer funds to buy positive coverage in a tabloid in order to pave Kurz’s way to the party leadership and the chancellorship. Kurz served as foreign minister until 2017, before taking the helm at the ÖVP in May 2017. The People’s Party emerged as the strongest force from the new elections in October 2017, and Kurz became chancellor.

What exactly is Kurz accused of?

According to the public prosecutor’s office, poll results – some of which were manipulated – were published in the editorial section of a daily newspaper, as well as in other media belonging to the same group of companies. There are suspicions that office holders paid money from the treasury of the Ministry of Finance to the media company in return, as part of media and advertising cooperations.

What does Kurz say about the accusations?

Kurz said he was convinced that these accusations would also soon prove to be false. “Once again, they are constructed accusations with the same systematic approach,” Kurz said. “Text messages are always taken out of context in order to construct a criminal accusation from them.” He said there was no indication at all that he had controlled which advertisements or surveys had been placed in the Finance Ministry. That he could have made or received bogus invoices for surveys or otherwise been involved in them, he said, he could “rule out 1000 percent.” The accusations would be directed primarily at employees of the Ministry of Finance.

That polls had been manipulated in his favor was absurd, if only because dozens of polls in the 2016 period in question had shown very similar values for parties and politicians.

What does the suspected media group have to say about this?

The daily newspaper “Österreich” also rejected the accusations, saying, “At no time was there an agreement between Mediengruppe Österreich and the Ministry of Finance regarding payment for polls through advertisements.” All ad payments by the ministry were disclosed by the Transparency Act, he said.

  • source: news agencies/Austrian newspapers/orf.at/Zeit im Bild/picture: pixabay.com
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