Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has announced he is stepping down after being accused of corruption.
The 35-year-old and close associates allegedly tried to secure his leadership of the conservative Austrian People’s Party, and of the country, with the aid of manipulated polls and friendly reports in the media, financed with public money.
He denies any wrongdoing and said he will “refute and disprove the accusations that have been made”.
Mr Kurz added that the allegations, revealed by prosecutors on Wednesday, are “false and I will be able to clear this up – I am deeply convinced of that”.
He will remain very active in politics, staying on as his party’s leader while also heading its parliamentary grouping.
Mr Kurz says he wanted to ‘prevent chaos’
His departure from the top job was precipitated by his party’s junior coalition partner, the Greens, who said on Friday that he could not stay on, while demanding that his party nominate someone “irreproachable” to replace him.
Austria’s three opposition parties had all demanded his resignation, and there were plans to bring a no-confidence motion against him in parliament on Tuesday.
Mr Kurz has suggested that foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg replace him as chancellor – something the Greens are yet to respond to.
He told reporters that Austria needed “stable conditions”, adding: “So, in order to resolve the stalemate, I want to make way to prevent chaos and ensure stability.”
Mr Kurz’s first coalition, with the far-right Freedom Party, collapsed in 2019. He decided to break the agreement after a video emerged showing the Freedom Party’s leader at the time, Heinz-Christian Strache, appearing to offer favours to a purported Russian investor.
Mr Kurz assumed office again in January 2020 after snap elections.