October 23, 2021

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Austrian Chancellor to Step Down Amid Corruption Probe

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Saturday told reporters, ‘I want to make way to prevent chaos and ensure stability.’

Photo: LISI NIESNER/REUTERS

BERLIN—Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he plans to step down in an effort to defuse a government crisis triggered by prosecutors’ announcement that he is a target of a corruption investigation.

Mr. Kurz, 35, said he has proposed that Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg replace him. But Mr. Kurz himself will remain in front-line politics: He said he would become the head of his conservative Austrian People’s Party’s parliamentary group.

Mr. Kurz’s party had closed ranks behind him after the prosecutors’ announcement Wednesday. But its junior coalition partner, the Greens, said Friday that Mr. Kurz couldn’t remain as chancellor and demanded that his party nominate an “irreproachable person” to replace him.

Opposition leaders had called for Mr. Kurz to go and planned to bring a no-confidence motion against him Tuesday in parliament.

“What we need now are stable conditions,” Mr. Kurz told reporters Saturday in Vienna. “So, in order to resolve the stalemate, I want to make way to prevent chaos and ensure stability.”

Mr. Kurz and his close associates are accused of trying to secure his rise to the leadership of his party and the country with the help of manipulated polls and friendly reports in the media, financed with public money. Mr. Kurz, who became the People’s Party leader and then chancellor in 2017, has denied wrongdoing and until Saturday made clear he planned to stay on.

In Saturday’s statement, he said again that the accusations against him “are false and I will be able to clear this up—I am deeply convinced of that.”

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