Corruption brings down Austria’s hard-right vice chancellor

Heinz-Christian Strache
Heinz-Christian Strache. PHOTO: Franz-Johann-Morgenbesser
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In a thumping for the far right and an upset for the government, Austria’s vice chancellor was compelled to resign over corruption that surfaced in mid-May. Heinz-Christian Strache led the über-nationalist Freedom Party, founded by former Nazi SS officers. He was secretly filmed meeting with a woman who claimed to be the wealthy niece of a Russian oligarch and offered to buy a major stake in an Austrian newspaper to use as a media voice for the Freedom Party. Strache offered her public contracts in exchange.

Strache’s ultra-right, anti-immigrant party was a junior partner in Austria’s coalition government until the scandal erupted. The fallout was immediate. A vote of no confidence forced the government to call for new elections in September.

The anonymous video came to light a week before Austria’s election for the EU Parliament on May 26. It is credited for a dip in support for the Freedom Party, which got 17 percent of the country’s vote and lost one of its previous four EU seats.

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