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Austrian chancellor Kurz resigns after corruption probe revelations

By Don Jacobson
Austrian chancellor Kurz resigns after corruption probe revelations
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, shown during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House on February 20, 2019, stepped down from his post Saturday. File Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI/Pool | License Photo

Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced his resignation Saturday, three days after prosecutors announced that he is a target of a corruption investigation.

Kurz said in a televised statement that he is stepping down and that Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has been tapped to take over as chancellor.

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"My country is more important to me than myself," said Kurz, leader of the conservative ÖVP People's Party. "What we need now is stability. That's why I want to step aside to help resolve this stalemate, prevent chaos and guarantee stability."

The move comes after his office was raided this week by Austria's Economic and Corruption Prosecutor's Office, who are investigating him and and nine other individuals on suspicions of bribery.

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Kurz received the backing of his ÖVP party, but their governing coalition partner, the Green Party, demanded his resignation. Greens leader Werner Kogler declared Kurz was "no longer fit for office" and urged the ÖVP to nominate an "irreproachable person" as his replacement.

Following the chancellor's resignation, Kogler told reporters his party wanted to continue the coalition under Schallenberg and would meet with the new leader Sunday.

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The rest of the ÖVP government team remained in place.

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Prosecutors allege Kurz and his associates used public funds to finance "partially manipulated" opinion polls to bolster their political interests between 2016 and 2018.

He has strongly denied the allegations and said his resignation does not constitute an admission of guilt. The charges, he reiterated, are "wrong, and I will be able to clarify that" as member of Parliament.

Pamela Rendi-Wagner, leader of the opposition Socialists, called Kurz's resignation a cynical move that will enable him to keep running the country as a "shadow chancellor" while under investigation for corruption, allowing him to "continue to pull the strings."

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