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Austrian vice chancellor quits over video as coalition teeters

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Austrian vice chancellor quits over video as coalition teeters

Austrian vice chancellor quits over video as coalition teeters

Austria's vice chancellor and longtime far-right leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, said on Saturday he was stepping down over video footage that threatened to bring down the right-wing coalition government.

Mia Womersley reports


Austrian vice chancellor quits over video as coalition teeters

Austria's ruling government is teetering on the brink of collapse after the country's vice chancellor and longtime far-right leader announced he was stepping down.

That's after video footage emerged that's threatening to destroy the ruling coalition.

It allegedly shows the head of the Freedom Party discussing state contracts with a potential Russian backer in return for political support, shortly before the election that brought him to power.

Heinz-Christian Strache told a news conference: "It was dumb, it was irresponsible and it was a mistake".

Fighting back tears as he asked his wife and others to forgive him.

He maintained, however, that he had done nothing illegal.

The threat to the governing alliance has blown up just a week before Austria votes in elections for the European Parliament.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has distanced himself from the far-right to protect his image when lesser scandals have emerged.

Strache has headed the Freedom Party since 2005, credited with bringing it back to mainstream electoral success.

The video was reported on Friday (May 17) by two of neighbouring Germany's leading media.

It allegedly showed a meeting in Ibiza in July 2017 between Strache, another party official and a woman purporting to be the niece of a Russian oligarch.

In it, he appeared to offer to direct inflated construction contracts to a company in exchange for support for his party, though he also said he wanted everything to be done legally.

Speculation now over whether the damage will be limited to Strache, or if Kurz would call a snap election only a year-and-a-half after the coalition was formed.

Kurz's party still leads opinion polls but far short of a majority.

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