behind the scenes of the fall of the austrian chancellor

A political career, as brilliant and lightning as it is, can sometimes be damaged by the revelations of a simple hard drive. This has just happened to the young and so far talented Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who was forced to resign on Saturday 9 October after a wave of searches carried out three days earlier in his offices, as well as to the seat of its formation, the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP). He is suspected of “embezzlement, corruption and influence peddling”. “I want to give up my place to avoid chaos”, said the 35-year-old leader, chancellor since 2017, under the threat of a motion of censure announced for Tuesday. He is replaced by his foreign minister, Alexander Schallenberg.

Incarnation of a hard right uninhibited in Austria and beyond throughout Europe, capable of allying as well with the far right as with environmentalists, Mr. Kurz, king of political marketing, with the look of a son-in-law ideal, ended up burning at his own game. It is too early to know if this resignation – presented as a simple “No side” – marks the end of his career, but it is a serious setback. The latter owes everything to a search carried out on November 12, 2019 at the home of one of his faithful, Thomas Schmid.

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This senior official, ten years older than the Chancellor, made a career in the wheel of this Wunderkind (“Child prodigy”) of Austrian politics, became Secretary of State at 24, in 2011, then Minister of Foreign Affairs at 27 and finally Chancellor at 31. In all these positions, Sebastian Kurz is systematically ” the youngest “ from all over the Old Continent; Mr. Schmid, him, supports him discreetly in the shadows, then becomes, in 2019, the director of the agency of the participations of the State, one of the best paid positions in the country. Both arrived at the height of their careers, everything would have been for the best if the official, addicted to WhatsApp, had not also kept in mind the not so shiny behind the scenes of this spectacular rise on the messaging application.

“Manipulated” surveys

In November 2019, when police knocked on the door of his home, Mr Schmid in theory had nothing to worry about: they came for an investigation that did not pose a threat to the government and he erased his entire history on WhatsApp. Except that he forgot to worry about the automatic copy of his hard drive. On it, 300,000 messages. Several will arouse the interest of the anti-corruption prosecution, especially as they shed new light on the “Ballhausplatz project”. Named after the place of the political heart in the center of Vienna, this plan designed in 2016 by the chancellor and his relatives retraces all the steps planned to take power.

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