Austrian Government Collapses After Youngest-Ever Chancellor Loses Confidence Vote

Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has been removed from office in a stunning culmination of a scandal wherein a political ally was caught red-handed on tape discussing bribes from a woman he thought was the niece of a Russian oligarch.  

Sebastian Kurz with disgraced former Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache in the background.

The so-called "Ibiza-gate" scandal, named after the Spanish island where the video was secretly filmed in 2017, resulted in far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) leader and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache resigning his posts.

On Monday opposition leaders in parliament went further and held a no-confidence vote, ousting the country's leader Chancellor Kurz from office, in a first in Austria's post-war history.

Social Democrat (SPÖ) leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner, who had initially proposed the no confidence vote, slammed Kurz during the proceeding, saying, “You have said a lot, but have not yet said that your government has failed. You alone are responsible for it.”

The video had previously forced Kurz to end his coalition with the FPOe and call for early elections, but parliament has insisted the now former chancellor take full responsibility for the corruption scandal, in spite of the 32-year old leader's conservative People's Party (OeVP) doing well in EU parliament elections, expected to gain 34.9% of the vote and pick up two extra seats.

Screengrab from the Ibiza-gate video, via AFP/Spiegel

Per the AFP:

The no-confidence vote against Kurz and his government took place in a special sitting of parliament with more than half of MPs withdrawing their support, making him Austria's shortest-serving chancellor.

Submitting the motion against Kurz, the head of the SPOe, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, accused him of an unprecedented "uncurbed and shameless power grab".

Austria's president Alexander Van der Bellen named Vice Chancellor Hartwig Löger as the interim leader and a "transitional government" will be named.

The now famous "honey-trap" video that has now effectively brought down the ruling Austrian government was summarized by the BBC as follows:

It has widely been labelled "Ibiza-gate", after the Spanish island where the video was recorded.

It was secretly filmed in 2017 just weeks before the election which saw both the FPÖ and Chancellor Kurz's party perform well.

In the footage, released by German media, Freedom Party leader and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache can be seen relaxing and drinking for hours at a villa with FPÖ parliament group leader Johann Gudenus, while they meet a woman, purported to be the niece of a Russian oligarch.

Mr Strache appears to propose offering her public contracts if she buys a large stake in the Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung - and makes it support the Freedom Party.

He is heard suggesting that a number of journalists would have to be "pushed" from the newspaper, and that he wants to "build a media landscape like [Viktor] Orban" - referring to Hungary's nationalist leader.

The video's mysterious origins remain subject of fierce debate and speculation after it was published over a week ago by two German newspapers, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Der Spiegel.

It's been described as the result of "an elaborately prepared and well-funded sting operation" which some have accused Russian intelligence of orchestrating.

It remains as yet unclear if now disgraced Vice-Chancellor Strache will still take one of FPÖ's three predicted three seats in European parliament.