Published: Tue, May 21, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Austrian President Sets Date for Snap Elections Amid 'Shameful' Video Scandal

Austrian President Sets Date for Snap Elections Amid 'Shameful' Video Scandal

The Chancellor told the media there must be "maximum of stability" in the country now, and that the snap elections were "not a wish, but a necessity".

A major political crisis unfolded in Austria on Friday after German papers, Spiegel and Suddeutscher Zeitung, published a video of Strache and another high-ranking member of his rightwing populist Freedom Party (FPO), Johann Gudenus, talking to a woman who claimed to be a "niece of a Russian oligarch".

The two leaders had met to discuss how to proceed after the video scandal that led to the collapse of the coalition government.

Confirming his decision to step down yesterday, Mr Strache insisted he'd done nothing illegal - but said his actions were "dumb and irresponsible".

Austrian prosecutors have examined the scandalous videotape which cost vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache his job and said they couldn't find any grounds to launch an investigation over its content.

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Following the meeting, President Van der Bellen confirmed he's proposing that the snap polls be held in September. The scandal is a blow to the Freedom Party, one of Europe's most successful nationalist groups, ahead of the European Parliament elections, which far-right parties across the Continent have set their sights on.

After the news broke, thousands took to the streets of Vienna, demanding a snap election, with Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen later suggesting that the vote should take place in early September.

In a statement, he pointed out that the country's European elections are only a week away - and that will be followed by "weeks and months" of intensive discussions in the EU.

Pamela Rendi-Wagner, head of the opposition Social Democrats, said that three Freedom Party ministries - defense, interior and justice - should be filled with independent experts in the interim to the elections, the dpa news agency reported.

Strache said on Saturday that Transport Minister Norbert Hofer, a former presidential candidate, would replace him as party leader. This position was also defended by Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen, quoted by Reuters.

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