Austria calls snap general election amid corruption scandal

Austria’s president is calling for a snap general election following the collapse of the coalition government over a corruption scandal.

Alexander Van der Bellen announced the move yesterday after vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache resigned when secret footage emerged of him apparently offering government contracts to a purported Russian investor.

Speaking at a press conference with Sebastian Kurz, the chancellor and leader of the centre-right People’s Party, which had been in a coalition with Mr Strache’s far-right Freedom Party, Mr Van der Bellen suggested September as a likely date for voters to go to the polls.

The Green Party politician said an early election was the only way Vienna could restore domestic faith in politics and stabilise its reputation abroad.

“The only thing that is important now is protecting the integrity of our country and how we are seen in the EU and the whole world,” Mr Van der Bellen said.

Austria was thrown into turmoil on Friday when two German newspapers published clips from a secretly recorded meeting from 2017 showing Mr Strache discussing state contracts in return for favours from a woman posing as a Russian oligarch’s niece.

In the video, shot at a party in Ibiza, Mr Strache indicates he would offer the woman lucrative state contracts in return for her helping him win the election. At one point, he proposes that she buy a controlling stake in ‘Krone Zeitung’, Austria’s top-selling newspaper, and replace critical journalists with ones more sympathetic towards his party.

Mr Strache resigned as vice-chancellor on Saturday, admitting his comments were “catastrophic and embarrassing”. Later in the day, Mr Kurz announced the dissolution of the coalition, formed 18 months ago. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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