It can go that fast. Austria’s Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (35, ÖVP) was recently known as a “Wunderwuzzi” (Austrian for all-rounder). As an exceptional political talent who became the youngest head of government in the world at the age of 31. Today there is not much left of it: Kurz announced his resignation on Saturday evening because the public prosecutor’s office is investigating him and some confidants for corruption. And the coalition partner, the Greens, also dropped him. Nevertheless, Kurz wants to stay in control of his party. Is he hoping for a comeback?
His resignation speech was briefly held on Saturday when one of his confidants announced his return to the Chancellery. “Alexander Schallenberg will temporarily take over the role of Federal Chancellor,” wrote Agriculture Minister Elisabeth Köstinger (42, ÖVP) on Twitter. And: “I am sure that Sebastian Kurz will refute all allegations and will soon return to office as Federal Chancellor.”
Is Kurz still pulling the strings in the background?
Kurz himself did not speak of “resignation”, but of “making room”. He announced that he would remain ÖVP boss and that he wanted to lead the faction in parliament: “I will use the opportunity to refute the allegations that have been made against me.” He insists on the presumption of innocence.
The resignation seems more like a strategic realignment. In his new role, the opposition fears, Kurz is still more powerful than all ministers and pulls the strings in the background. His possible successor as Federal Chancellor, Alexander Schallenberg (52), is portrayed as a puppet by the opposition.
Advertisements against friendly newspaper reports
It is questionable how realistic comeback ambitions would be. Because the allegations against Sebastian Kurz weigh heavily: With his clique, he is said to have bought friendly reports in the newspaper “Austria” and fudge-out surveys in 2016 and 2017 for a sum of millions. Worse still: The whole thing is said to have been paid for with taxpayers’ money. On Wednesday, the police carried out raids in the Chancellery and the party headquarters. If there is an indictment, they face years of imprisonment.
The prosecution seized masses of text messages that went back and forth between the accused. And they could not only burden the group legally, but also cast a new and unfavorable light on Kurz and his closest confidants.
Formal handover on Monday?
In his text messages, he unrestrainedly sabotaged party friends as well, if it was beneficial for their own advancement. And instead of chosen words that one is used to from him, people are disgraced as “asses”. He wrote some of the news “in the heat of the moment” and would no longer phrase it that way, Kurz said in his resignation speech on Saturday.
Only those involved know which revelations could still be hidden in the seized mountain of data.
It is possible that Kurz will formally hand over his office to his successor on Monday. Then it will show whether the “Wunderwuzzi” is good for another miracle.
Resignation of Sebastian Kurz: The temporary end of a boy prodigy(01:28)