The guessing games have come to an end as Austria’s former Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache announced on Monday (17 June) he will remain politically active in Vienna and won’t take up his MEP seat in Brussels. An analysis by Herbert Vytiska for EURACTIV Germany.
At 50, one cannot yet quit politics, according to Strache’s Facebook post. Austria’s former vice-chancellor appears unfazed by his appearance in the recently leaked Ibiza video, which made headlines one week before the European elections.
In the video, Strache is filmed proposing public contracts to the supposed niece of a Russian oligarch, although she repeatedly made clear that “dirty money” was involved.
Strache also openly discussed restructuring the Austrian media landscape in line with the Hungarian model, by suggesting a buy-out of Austria’s influential newspaper, the Kronen Zeitung.
European Parliament or Vienna
In the middle of last week, on his 50th birthday, he was officially informed by the Austrian electoral authority that he had won a seat in the European Parliament because of the high number of preferential votes.
For days, Strache avoided making it clear whether he wanted to sit in the EU Parliament or not.
Some FPÖ politicians did issue statements saying they did not think much of accepting such a mandate after the scandal. However, the interim party leadership did not dare put its foot down on the matter.
On Monday morning, Strache announced that he would not accept the EU mandate but would continue to pursue politics in Austria, particularly in Vienna.
Investigations by the public prosecutor
But Strache himself is also hoping for more clarification on why he had been “framed” in Ibiza in the summer of 2017.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office dealing with corruption and fiscal matters launched an investigation against Strache after the Ibiza scandal was made public.
Meanwhile, other speculations are being made, with one thing in common: the former vice chancellor and former FPÖ chairman is not ready to put an end to his political career. He does not even want to return to his dental practice.
Rather, it is being speculated that he might now run as FPÖ list leader in next year’s municipal elections in Vienna. He has always eyed the position of mayor of the Austrian capital. This is also where the FPÖ could gather many votes.
Searching for clients
Regarding the actual people behind the Ibiza video, no new information has yet entered the public domain.
In security circles, as it has been communicated to EURACTIV, it is now assumed that the person behind the video could have been part of foreign secret services.
This person could be part of the French, US or even the Israeli secret service. France, because it is concerned that right-wing populists could get a grip on government. The US because they fear Russia’s influence on Europe. And finally Israel, which is generally critical of Europe’s shift to the right.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]