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Austrian Chancellor Kurz ousted in no-confidence vote after video scandal

By Ed Adamczyk   |   May 27, 2019 at 11:45 AM
Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, seen here in the White House on February 20, was driven from office on Monday after a no-confidence vote by Austria's parliament. File photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI

May 27 (UPI) -- Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was ousted Monday by a no-confidence vote amid a corruption scandal engulfing a coalition partner.

In parliamentary debate, delegates of the far-right Freedom Party, a coalition partner of Kurz's Austrian People's Party, said they were critical of Kurz and unwilling to gamble their party's future on Kurz in the wake of a scandal.

Kurz, 32, became chancellor in December 2017. His party received 31 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections and formed a coalition.

German publications circulated a video a week ago in which Freedom Party leader and Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, and party parliamentary leader Johann Gudenus, talked with an unidentified woman at a luxury resort on the Spanish island of Ibiza. She purported to be the niece of a Russian oligarch, seeking to invest in Austria, and during their 6-hour meeting Strache told her that he could help her gain access to artificially inflated state contracts.

The video included footage of Strache drinking heavily. He called the sting operation "a honey trap stage-managed by intelligence agencies," mentioning Jan Bohmermann, an Israeli with links to Austria's center-left Social Democratic Party. Strache resigned from the vice chancellorship last week. To tamp down the effects of the scandal, Kurz called for snap elections in Austria in September.

Kurz's dismissal came Monday after the Freedom Party ignored its coalition with the chancellor's leading party and voted with center and left parties in the no-confidence vote. Before the parliamentary action, Kurz's party won a decisive victory in the weekend's European Parliament elections.

It is the first time since the reconstituted Austrian government was formed after World War II that its leader was driven from office. A caretaker government will be formed to lead the country until the September elections.

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