What does Herbert Kickl know about ex-Chancellor Kurz? / News / News agency Inforos
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What does Herbert Kickl know about ex-Chancellor Kurz?

The Austrian government has resigned, but the story does not seem to end here

What does Herbert Kickl know about ex-Chancellor Kurz?

Throughout the entire existence of the Second Austrian Republic, i. e. since 1945 to the present day, the opposition has made 186 attempts to file a no confidence vote to the government or separate ministers, 185 of which proved unsuccessful. The government in Austria is formed by one or several parties with a parliamentary majority, and it goes without saying that none of them will vote against themselves. But on May 27, when the vote of no confidence in Sebastian Kurz's government gained approval of the majority of deputies, the circumstances were quite different.

By that time Kurz's government comprised members of the Austrian People's Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) alone and had no majority in the parliament. Representatives of the Freedom Party of Austria (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ) left the cabinet a few days before the vote, and not entirely by choice, which, in fact, triggered the vote's success.

Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache resigned right after the release of the scandalous Ibiza video, being its central character. But Kurz was not satisfied and demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, who was formally not involved on the scandal. Moreover, the Chancellor specified Kickl's resignation as a condition of preserving the coalition of the Austrian People's Party and the Freedom Party of Austria. The latter refused, and after Kurz asked the President of Austria to relieve Kickl of his ministerial duties, the right-wing fringe pulled out of government, making the coalition collapse.

As a result, the parliamentary faction of the FPÖ headed by Kickl himself, supported its ideological opponents — the Social Democrats — and supported their vote of no confidence. The Chancellor and all the remaining ministers were next to resign.

It is not entirely clear why was it so important for Kurz to remove Kickl, even at the cost of his own resignation, quite a predictable one. "I'm not a friend of Kickl, but it all smells bad," Jetzt Party leader Peter Pilz tweeted, wondering the same thing. However, presuming that the Austrian Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism (BVT) was somehow implicated in the Ibiza video appearance (and such assumptions are getting increasingly resonant in Austria), the situation acquires at least some logical explanation.

Kickl had a conflict with the BVT subordinate to him, serious enough for the latter to seek the minister's resignation. It was about the leakage of secret documents and the Austrian intelligence service's isolation in the EU intelligence community. It is entirely possible therefore that Kickl was the main target of releasing the video, and the BVT then addressed Kurz with a recommendation or even demand to dismiss both Strache and the Interior Minister.

In the second fragment of the video, which was anonymously posted on Twitter, Strache claims to hold information about Kurz's involvement in sex orgies. If the ex-chancellor really possessed some damaging information — the FPÖ, the BVT or both — it could have been a forcible argument when deciding on Kickl's resignation, and the released fragment — a warning to the Chancellor.

And such information seems to exist after all. Kiсkl, speaking before the parliament on May 27 at the hearings on the vote of no confidence, said the following: "Ladies and gentlemen, I proceed from the fact that in the coming weeks or months we may learn and see such things, probably such a picture of manners, next to which everything we saw on the video from Ibiza, would pale into insignificance." This statement sounded quite threatening, and many in Austria regarded it precisely this way.

"The coming weeks or months" refers to the period of the upcoming election campaign to the Austrian parliament: the new vote is to take place in early September. But what exactly did Kickl want to say — whether he threatened Kurz, showed his awareness or something else — will probably transpire no earlier than after the event. However, those whom his statement was addressed to, have definitely got the message. Like it was in April, when German satirist Jan Böhmermann joked about hanging out with two "FPÖ business friends in a Russian oligarch villa on Ibiza". Only a month later did the general democratic public wake up to the fact that it was not a joke, but a manifestation of political communication for a narrow circle of initiates.

One thing is clear — there is nothing the Austrian politicians wouldn't have tried to get what they wanted, even damaging materials, which convincingly points to the existence of the Ibiza video, shot in 2017 during the previous election campaign and put forth two years later, on the eve of European Parliament elections. If there is one material of this kind, there must be others, and releasing the video may well become the starting point of a process, during which various details of the Vienna political elite life will become known. In other words, there is going to be a rather hot summer in Austria.

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