Tue, May 21, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Far-right ministers could quit Austrian government

AFP, VIENNA

Austrian far-right ministers yesterday were ready to quit their posts, the party chief said, after the country’s coalition government collapsed over a corruption scandal days before European elections.

Conservative Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has called for fresh elections after a hidden-camera sting forced his far-right deputy to resign, bringing an end to a coalition many on the European right held up as a model.

With Kurz scrambling to regain control over the weekend, saying he can no longer tolerate the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) scandals, media speculation is growing he will also oust far-right Minister of the Interior Herbert Kickl.

The FPOe closed ranks behind Kickl, threatening to quit their Cabinet posts, which also include the foreign, defense, transport and social affairs ministries.

“We will give up our government offices if Interior Minister Herbert Kickl is forced out,” Austrian Minister of Infrastructure Norbert Hofer, who took over the FPOe leadership on Sunday, told a news conference.

“I feel very sorry that such a great government project ends so soon... I think this government was very popular,” he said, adding that Kickl had done “nothing wrong.”

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen on Sunday suggested elections be held in early September with a date to be fixed after further talks with other parties.

Heinz-Christian Strache stepped down as vice chancellor and FPOe leader after recordings published by German media on Friday showed him offering government contracts in return for campaign help to a fake Russian backer in a villa on the resort island of Ibiza.

The Kremlin yesterday denied any involvement in the sting operation.

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