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Austria

Yearbook 2019

Austria. The so-called Ibiza scandal, which burst in mid-May, led to the resignation and re-election in September. But some major changes did not bring about this scandal, which the Social Democrats (SP) gladly described as "the biggest scandal in Austria after the world war".

2019 Austria

The scandal consisted in a revelation that Austria's vice-chancellor and party leader of the right-wing populist Freedom Party (FP), Heinz-Christian Strache, had been deceived just before the 2017 election by a woman who, at a meeting in Ibiza, had pretended to be a Russian billionaire. The woman had said she wanted to invest several hundred million euros in Austria. Among other things, she would take control of Austria's largest newspaper, Kronen Zeitung, and thus help FP in the electoral movement. However, the meeting was sneakily filmed, and the Ibiza scandal became a fact, as did a Russian connection to right-wing parties.

According to CountryAAH, Strache resigned immediately, a day later, also Interior Minister Herbert Kickl. After that, all the ministers from the right-wing populist party FP were forced out of the government, and President Alexander Van der Bellen recommended new elections in September. When the government and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz lost a vote of no confidence on May 27, Kurz and the government resigned, and a new election was announced. The party politically independent Brigitte Bierlein was appointed temporary Chancellor. The 69-year-old lawyer thus became the country's first female Chancellor - albeit temporarily.

Despite the Ibiza scandal, Chancellor Kurz did well in the EU elections on 26 May. His Conservative People's Party (VP) was the largest with 34.6% of the vote, giving 7 seats. There was also an 8 percentage point increase for the party since the 2014 European elections. The Social Democratic SP gained 23.9% (5 seats) and FP ended at 17.2% (3 seats). The green parties The green/green option got 14.1% (2 seats) and liberal NEOS (New Austria) got 8.4% (1 seats).

At the recent September 29 election, former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz strengthened his positions. His VP received 38.4% of the vote, which was an increase of almost 7 percentage points; the right-wing nationalist FP ended up at 17.3% (a decrease of almost 9 percentage points), while the Social Democratic SP only gained 21.5%, a decrease of 5.3 percentage points, which is the party's worst result ever. The biggest winner was the Greens, who went from 3.8% in the 2017 election to 12.4% (an increase of 8.6 percentage points).

After the election, Sebastian Kurz announced that he would hold government talks with all parties. FP's newly-appointed leader Norbert Hofer announced at the same time that he was preparing to sit in opposition. However, this was not the case. In mid-December, Kurz and VP reached an agreement with the right-wing populist and xenophobic FP to form a coalition government. This meant that the country was back on square one, that the Ibiza scandal was over and that the government basically looked the same at the end of the year as at the beginning - except for the resigned FP leader and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, who are now completely forced to leave politics.

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