Sebastian Kurz: Austrian leader quits amid corruption probe

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz will resign as Austrian chancellor. Credit: AP

Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz has said he will resign in an effort to defuse a government crisis triggered by prosecutors’ announcement that he is a target of a corruption investigation.

The 35-year-old said he has proposed that Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg be his replacement as chancellor.

Mr Kurz and his close associates are accused of trying to secure his rise to the leadership of his party and the country with the help of manipulated polls and friendly reports in the media, financed with public money.

Mr Kurz himself plans to become the head of his Austrian People’s Party’s parliamentary group.

His party had closed ranks behind him after the prosecutors’ announcement on Wednesday.

People stage a protest against Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Vienna Credit: Lisa Leutner/AP

But its junior coalition partner, the Greens, said that Mr Kurz could not remain as chancellor and demanded that his party nominate an “irreproachable person” to replace him.

Opposition leaders had called for Mr Kurz to go and planned to bring a no-confidence motion against him to parliament on Tuesday.

“What we need now are stable conditions,” Mr Kurz told reporters in Vienna. “So, in order to resolve the stalemate, I want to make way to prevent chaos and ensure stability.”

Mr Kurz, who became the People’s Party leader and then chancellor in 2017, has denied wrongdoing and until Saturday made clear he planned to stay on.

A demonstrator dresses up as Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz Credit: Lisa Leutner/AP

In Saturday’s statement, he insisted again that the accusations against him “are false and I will be able to clear this up — I am deeply convinced of that”.

Mr Kurz said he will keep his party’s leadership as well as becoming its parliamentary group leader.

Mr Kurz’s first coalition with the far-right Freedom Party collapsed in 2019.

The chancellor pulled the plug after a video surfaced showing the Freedom Party’s leader at the time, Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, appearing to offer favours to a purported Russian investor.