Austrian far-right leader steps down over video

Austrian far-right leader steps down over video

VIENNA- Reuters
Austrian far-right leader steps down over video

Austria's vice chancellor and longtime far-right leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, said on May 18 he was stepping down over video footage that threatened to bring down the right-wing coalition government.

Strache was shown in the footage of as-yet unknown origin meeting a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch in 2017, shortly before the election that brought him to power.

In the footage published by German media on May 17 evening, he appears to offer to funnel contracts towards a company in exchange for political and financial support.

"It was dumb, it was irresponsible and it was a mistake," Strache told a news conference, fighting back tears as he asked his wife and others to forgive him.

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

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has repeatedly distanced himself from the FPO over lesser scandals to protect his popularity.

Strache said he would be replaced by Transport Minister Norbert Hofer, who narrowly lost 2016's presidential election and is more popular than Strache.

"I do not in any circumstances want my wrong behaviour to provide a pretext for the government to collapse," Strache said.

far right, resignation,