ER Editor: A reminder that Wunderkind Sebastian Kurz was one of the stable of photogenic Young Global Leaders and Chancellor of Austria after being its foreign minister in his late twenties. As Chancellor, he got taken down in a couple of scandals, in stepwise fashion, until he left politics entirely and was taken up (rescued?) by Peter Thiel. He’s now facing more charges for having put a party crony and confidante in a top position and later lying about it to a parliamentary investigation, as detailed below in a piece for Politico. Kurz is bottom left in the image below —
When Kurz quit as Chancellor, Austria got Alexandra Schallenberg briefly, then Karl Nehammer, who is still in office. This was arguably the most tyrannical EU state when it came to threatening vaccines on its population. Mysteriously, however, the draconian laws promised around those vaccines failed to materialize before the deadline for implementation.
We’ve listed the number of current/recent leaders or major government influencers who have been ‘stepping down’ of late or getting caught in investigations: Jacinda Ardern, Mark Rutte, Alain Berset & Walter Thurnherr (both from Switzerland), Nicola Sturgeon, Sanna Marin and Franz Timmermans. We’re wondering if Kurz shouldn’t be joining this list.
For a few more details of the case, see this German article (browsers will translate) —
Austria’s former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is charged with giving false evidence to parliamentary inquiry into scandal that brought down his first govt pic.twitter.com/apSPYcMpfP
— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) August 18, 2023
Europe’s erstwhile political Wunderkind is headed for the courthouse.
Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who took European politics by storm in 2017 as the world’s youngest head of government, was indicted in Vienna on Friday for allegedly making false statements to a parliamentary inquiry in 2020, the Economic and Corruption Prosecutor’s Office announced in a statement.
If convicted — a trial is set for October — Kurz could face up to three years in prison, an outcome that would likely mark the definitive end of his political career. A guilty verdict would cast a deep shadow over Kurz’s conservative People’s Party, which has been in power since 1987, but whose fortunes have slumped amid the tsunami of scandal that defined Kurz’s tenure.
The former chancellor, who wooed voters with boyish charm and a promise to root out the cronyism that has long defined Austrian politics, insists he is innocent and did nothing wrong.
“We look forward to the truth finally coming to light and for the accusations to be proven baseless in court,” Kurz tweeted on Friday.
Kurz joined Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel’s U.S.-based investment firm Thiel Capital as a “global strategist” after being forced from office and has also worked as a consultant for start-ups. Thiel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The criminal indictment, brought by Austria’s corruption prosecutor, may only be the first Kurz will face in connection with the sweeping “Ibiza” investigation that forced his resignation in 2021.
The scandal erupted in 2019 after a secret video filmed on the Spanish island of Ibiza emerged showing the leader of Kurz’s coalition partner, Heinz-Christian Strache, offering to trade pollical favors for money to a woman he believed to be the niece of a Russian oligarch.
The ensuing uproar triggered the collapse of Kurz’s government, but his party won the next election and he built a new coalition with the Greens.
Kurz appeared to have weathered the storm until investigators stumbled onto a trove of WhatsApp exchanges on the phone of one of the chancellor’s closest associates, Thomas Schmid, the head of the state holding company.
The explosive exchanges suggested that far from reforming Austria’s clientelist system, Kurz did everything he could to ensconce himself and his cronies.
Peter Wilke contributed reporting.
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