The Austrian Chancellor has followed the government in being ousted, the fallout from the Ibiza Affair continuing to send shockwaves across both Austria and the entire EU. Social-Democratic Party (SPÖ) deputy Jörg Leichtfried said that Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had “showed contempt for parliament and Austrian democracy” as Kurz was ousted in a dramatic no-confidence vote.
The vote and scheduled September elections have come following the resignation of the far-right Freedom Party, a reaction to Kurz recommending that interior minister Herbet Kickl be dismissed. The move came after the resignation of Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and Freedom Party deputy leader Johann Gudenus over the Ibiza Affair, a scandal that involved the leak of a 2017 video filmed in Ibiza that showed Strache offering government contracts to a woman who claimed to be related to Russian oligarch Igor Makarov.
The video also showed Strache openly discussing ways to avoid financing laws and suggesting he would be willing to ensure that the woman would be able to take control of an Austrian tabloid newspaper in order to suppress press freedoms, Strache indicating that such practices were common amongst donors to the Freedom Party. The woman has since been revealed to neither be Russian nor related to Makarov, being a Bosnian student who received payment between €6,000 and €7,000 for her “performance”.
A transitional government of civil servants and expects will rule the country until the elections in September.
“Yesterday the inauguration took place, the first council of ministers took place, this government is ready to allow the transitional phase to take place in an orderly manner, and to provide stability in Austria and the capacity to act on a European and international level. Whether the parliament decides to back that or not, that’s not my decision but a decision of the parliament that will be made on Monday”Sebastian Kurz
In an article penned by Rudolf Adam, former Vice President of the Federal Intelligence Service, the German magazine Cicero speculates that the video was released to impact the Freedom Party prior to this week’s European Elections where the far-right made unprecedented gains across the continent. Pointing out the obvious elaborate nature of the production and deliberate timing, the magazine suggests that only a state actor could be behind the sting and points the finger at Mossad.
Strache himself has supported the claims of intelligence involvement, stating that the video was “a honey trap stage-managed by intelligence agencies” and naming a controversial Israeli spin doctor with links to Austria’s SPÖ and German satirist, Jan Böhmermann as part of the affair. Reports from Germany have also nameed Viennese lawyer Ramin Mirfakhrai as the middleman who arranged the meeting between Strache and the “honey trap”.