Kurz defies pressure to resign amid Austrian corruption probe

Sebastian Kurz, Austria's chancellor, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York, Sept 22, 2021. (BLOOMBERG)

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz defied pressure to step down, as the nation’s president and his coalition partner questioned his ability to lead amid a corruption probe. 

“The current chancellor is no longer capable to deliver the duties of his office,” Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler told reporters late Friday. 

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President Alexander Van der Bellen promised to ensure that the “integrity of all institutions of our republic are preserved.”

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and nine others are suspected of funneling federal funds to a newspaper publisher to orchestrate his rapid rise in government. Prosecutors raided the offices of several Chancellery staff this week

The 35-year-old Kurz brushed off suggestions that he step down given his dwindling support, saying his People’s Party is capable and willing to continue at Austria’s helm. 

The standoff is headed next to a parliamentary vote of confidence Tuesday. With the government on the brink of collapse, it’s unclear whether opposition parties can unite for a new coalition or whether the nation will be forced into its third election in the last five years. 

Kurz and nine others are suspected of funneling federal funds to a newspaper publisher to orchestrate his rapid rise in government. Prosecutors raided the offices of several Chancellery staff this week.

Kurz has denied wrongdoing.

“We will accept if there is a different majority in parliament,” he told reporters late Friday.

Kurz’s People’s Party is the largest bloc in the legislature, and the political turmoil has united the group behind its leader. A coalition between opposition parties and the Greens would need support from the far-right Freedom Party, an unlikely political alignment.