Friday , October 22 2021

Austrian poll shows Kurz’s party drop in hit from scandal

Bloomberg

The corruption investigation that forced Austria’s Sebastian Kurz to resign as chancellor has wiped out his lead against his closest rival.
Support for the People’s Party dropped to 26% from 33%, putting it almost on par with the Socialist Party, which stood at 25%. That is according to a survey conducted by the IFDD pollster as the political turmoil unfolded last week. The results were published in the Kronen Zeitung newspaper on Tuesday.
People were asked in the survey to weigh on the party assuming Kurz would be leading it in the next elections. It’s an open question what kind of support the conservative ruling party can claw back with the appointment of Alexander Schallenberg, a career diplomat and political novice, as chancellor.
The far-right Freedom Party, which partnered with Kurz in his first government, polled at 21%.
Kurz has shown resilience, and a deft touch, when faced with previous corruption allegations. In 2019, two years into his first government, he called snap elections after the leader of his far-right coalition partner, the Freedom Party, was caught on a leaked video tape offering favours to a woman posing as a Russian oligarch’s niece.

Schallenberg, who has been serving as foreign minister, will need to pick up the pieces from the Kurz era and answer questions over whether it is really over. In his first comments after his appointment, the chancellor didn’t totally dispel the notion that the wily 35-year-old political survivor will be allowed to keep pulling the strings from the sidelines.
Kurz has shown resilience, and a deft touch, when faced with previous corruption allegations. In 2019, two years into his first government, he called snap elections after the leader of his far-right coalition partner, the Freedom Party, was caught on a leaked video tape offering favours to a woman posing as a Russian oligarch’s niece.
Kurz bounced back stronger than before with a carefully-choreographed campaign, and swam the ideological divide to form a coalition with the Greens. It was an early sign that the poster child of the anti-immigration populist movement in Europe was comfortable with compromise and could follow the zeitgeist.
The problem this time around, is that Kurz is directly implicated. He and nine others are suspected of funneling federal funds to a newspaper publisher in return for favorable coverage that helped fuel his meteoric political rise.
Kurz has denied the allegations.
The legal proceedings may drag on for years, weighing on his reputation. Any public backlash may soon be visible: a slump in opinion polls for his party in left-leaning Vienna could be an early signal.
In a televised speech, President Alexander Van der Bellen said he wouldn’t sweep the scandal under the carpet and called on politicians to regain people’s trust.
The parliamentary math, though, is in Kurz’s favor. Without his People’s Party the Greens would have to form a messy and awkward coalition with different opposition parties including the far-right. The resignation offers Kurz a potential path back to power and to the Greens a chance to gain the upper hand and impose more ambitious climate policies such as a tax on carbon emissions and cheap train tickets.
Kurz dropped out of college to pursue politics as a career. By contrast, Schallenberg is a chain-smoking foreign-policy expert with a background in law and a descendant of one of Austria’s oldest families.

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