VIENNA – Austria’s Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache has resigned on Saturday after a video appeared to show him offering government contracts to a potential Russian investor in exchange for political support.
“Today I had a meeting with the Federal Chancellor (Sebastian Kurz) and I offered him my resignation, which he accepted,” Strache told a news conference in Vienna.
He said he will also stand down as leader of the far-right Freedom Party (FPO).
Strache admitted to having made an “error” and said that he was retiring to avoid the fall of the government formed by his coalition and the Austrian People’s Party (OVP).
He said that his successor will be Norbert Hofer, current vice president of the FPO, Minister of Infrastructure and former candidate for the presidency.
In the video recorded in July 2017 and published on Friday by German media, Strache is seen meeting with a supposed Russian tycoon in a mansion in Ibiza.
He promises public contracts and to help the woman buy the Kronenzeitung, the most influential newspaper in the country, in exchange for millions of donations for his party.
A few months later, in October of the same year, the FPO won 26 percent of the votes in the legislative elections and in December came to power in alliance with the popular Kurz.
Strache attributed the filming and dissemination of the images to “a dirty disinformation campaign,” and said he fell into a trap set by “provocative agents” when he was invited to a dinner in a villa that had previously been bugged with wiretaps and cameras.
He admitted that he had behaved “like a teenager,” with a “loose tongue” caused by alcohol and had committed an “error” and “idiocy.”
He added that he has done nothing illegal, that “no donations flowed” and that he will take the necessary steps to bring to justice those who recorded their private meeting.
FPO politician Johann Gudenus, who appears in the video with Strache translating from Russian, announced that he will be retiring from all political positions.
Kurz is expected to appear before the press this afternoon.