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Austrian interior minister dismissed amid corruption scandal

21 May 2019, 22:53 ( 3 Months ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl . Photo Source Austrian government website.

Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl was dismissed from office by President Alexander Van der Bellen on Tuesday as part of the ongoing crisis following a corruption scandal.

   The controversy began on Friday night, when German media released secret video footage of Austrian right-wing Freedom Party leader and Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache offering government contracts to supposed representatives of a Russian oligarch in exchange for political aid.

   Strache resigned from office at the weekend, although Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, leader of the conservative People's Party in the coalition government, wished to hold talks with other ministers, including Strache's party colleague Kickl, to determine how to proceed with the coalition.

   These talks were subsequently held, but did not appear to go well, with the chancellor saying that the Freedom Party officials failed to show the required "sensibility" in dealing with the accusations facing Strache, and did not appear to understand the extent of the scandal. He also told journalists that he had asked the president to dismiss Kickl from office.

   Van der Bellen made the dismissal official on Tuesday, making it the first time a minister has been dismissed from government in Austria's post-World War II Second Republic era.

   In addition, the president accepted Strache's formal resignation. Three other Freedom Party ministers, who said they would resign if Kickl were to be removed from office, also saw their resignations accepted.

   Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, an independent occupying one of the Freedom Party portfolios, decided to remain in her role, citing her independence and a sense of obligation to maintain the course.

   Kurz later reaffirmed that the portfolios of the departing ministers would be filled by experts who are either current or former high-ranking officials until the upcoming snap election tentatively scheduled for September.

   He said what Austria requires now is stability and the proper functioning of the state.