According to Deutsche Welle, Austria's Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has announced that there will be new elections after the vice chancellor's involvement in the corruption scandal:

Austrian Chancellor Kurz has requested new elections after a corruption scandal brought down his vice chancellor. Footage showed the far-right deputy allegedly offering contracts to a supposed Russian investor.

Kurz praised the fact that his Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) had been able to see through many of its campaign promises with the help of Strache's far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), but the chancellor said that "enough is enough" after the latest FPÖ embarrassment.

I am wondering why go so far (new elections) instead of simply replacing the vice chancellor. Or if the alliance can no longer be maintained, why not negotiate to create another alliance?

Question: Why isn't Austria's vice chancellor simply replaced instead of going for new elections?

  • The speech of the Chancellor mentions a few more reasons, mostly the destroyed trust in the coalition partner. May 21, 2019 at 8:02

2 Answers 2


For context: The video in question showed Strache and a colleague of his with a woman purporting to be the niece of a Russian oligarch. She promised to influence the election in their favor, and in turn wanted to gain work orders from the state, as well as take over a popular, far-right news paper which could then further help the FPÖ in the election. Strache also spread rumors about Kurz concerning sex and drugs, and talked about illegal campaign finances.

Kurz explained his reasoning in detail. The important parts of his speech:

[W]ir haben in den letzten zwei Jahren inhaltlich genau das umgesetzt, was wir auch im Wahlkampf versprochen haben...

Sie haben wahrscheinlich aber auch alle mitverfolgt, dass in den letzten beiden Jahren für diese inhaltlichen Erfolge ich bereit sein musste, viel auszuhalten und auch vieles in Kauf zu nehmen: über das Rattengedicht, über die Nähe zu rechtsradikalen Gruppierungen bis hin zu immer wiederkehrenden Einzelfällen. [...]

Ich habe trotzdem im Sinne der Sacharbeit nicht bei der erstbesten Verfehlung die Koalition aufgekündigt. Aber nach dem gestrigen Video muss ich ganz ehrlich sagen: Genug ist genug. [...]

Was über mich in diesem Video gesagt wird von Beschimpfungen bis hin zu sehr derben Anschuldigungen und Unterstellungen, das ist alles eigentlich nebensächlich. [...]

Was aber wirklich schwerwiegend und problematisch ist, das sind die Ideen des Machtmissbrauchs, die Ideen zum Umgang mit österreichischen Steuergeldern und natürlich auch das Verständnis gegenüber der Medienlandschaft in unserem Land. Die FPÖ schadet mit diesem Verhalten dem Reformprojekt und dem Weg der Veränderung. Sie schadet auch dem Ansehen unseres Landes...

Vor allem – und das ist aus meiner Sicht aber das Schlimmste – habe ich in den heutigen Gesprächen mit einigen Vertretern der Freiheitlichen Partei nicht den Eindruck gewonnen, dass ein wirklicher Wille da ist, die Freiheitliche Partei abseits der beiden Rücktritte auf allen Ebenen zu verändern. Und ich glaube, das wäre nach den Vorkommnissen der letzten Tage mehr als nur notwendig... [...]

Ich glaube, dass das derzeit mit niemandem möglich ist. Die FPÖ kann es nicht, die Sozialdemokratie teilt meine inhaltlichen Zugänge nicht, und die kleinen Parteien sind zu klein, um wirklich Unterstützung sein zu können.

To summarize, Kurz is happy about the work he did with the FPÖ, but he had to endure a lot – racism, vicinity to far-right extremists, other recurring issues.

Despite this, he wanted to keep working with the FPÖ until the video. The insults and insinuations in the video are only incidental, but what is problematic for him is the abuse of power, the handling of tax payer money, and the handling of the press. This – according to Kurz – hurts the image of his country.

Additionally, he did not have the impression that members of the FPÖ want to change the party to the better.

As to why he didn't negotiate a new alliance: The FPÖ is out, the social democrats don't share his political ideas, and the other parties are too small.

According to the Zeit, there were some negotiations about keeping the coalition, but Kurz wanted the far-right minister of the interior Herbert Kickl to step back as well. Kickl, like the FPÖ in general, had ties to Putin, which may have been one of the problems; Germany for example reduced its cooperation with Austrian intelligence services out of fear that information would be given to Russia.

There is some speculation that the ÖVP could take over enough voters of the disgraced FPÖ to govern without them. Keeping the coalition, on the other hand, could further associate the ÖVP with the far-right and corrupt FPÖ and thus hurt them.

tl;dr According to Kurz himself, the problem was that the corruption of high-level FPÖ politicians hurt the image of Austria, and that the FPÖ had little interest in changing this image.

Kurz cannot find a new coalition because the only party large enough does not share his political ideas.

The breaking of the coalition with the FPÖ can also help prevent further damage to the ÖVP as well as Austria because of their association with the far-right and corrupt FPÖ.

  • 1
    This is a great answer that show why "cohabitation" with FPÖ is not longer possible. However, why is breaking the alliance and negotiate with another party without elections not considered? It should involve less effort than campaigning.
    – Alexei
    May 19, 2019 at 10:15
  • 2
    @Alexei Because there is no other party. As Kurz said, the social democrats don't share his political ideas (ie they are not far enough to the right), and no other party has enough seats for a coalition. The hope is probably that after the new elections, the ÖVP can pick up enough seats to form a coalition with the NEOS.
    – tim
    May 19, 2019 at 10:19
  • 1
    "he had to endure a lot … vicinity to far-right extremists", I am unsure how much irony is in that, or intentional in his part. You should point out that it was Kurz who sought the vicinity to the far-right FPÖ (among others; far-right and Kurz are obviously close together ideologically). May 19, 2019 at 11:06
  • 2
    @LangLangC It's definitely ironic to form a coalition with far-right extremists and to then complain that those extremists have ties to other far-right extremists. To me, it doesn't seem that Kurz is aware of this irony.
    – tim
    May 19, 2019 at 11:36
  • 2
    @Arsak: She hasn’t been identified (yet), but most likely isn’t actually related to some oligarch. I also think this should be corrected in the answer (suggestion: “with a woman purporting to be the niece of a Russian oligarch”).
    – chirlu
    May 19, 2019 at 18:25

The vice-chancellor is now disgraced in the public view due to a video from 2017 that was now published.

But that is not the first time that the right-wing chancellor Kurz is faced with accusations of scandals within his coalition partner FPÖ.

The problem now is that to replace this one politician, Kurz would have to choose another black sheep from within this deeply right-wing and plainly scandal ridden party, as the position in question cannot go to his own party, as per coalition treaty.

For getting a new coalition together, he would have to look at the other parties. That brings a mathematical problem:

2017 Austrian legislative election

Party                                  Votes        %     seats
Austrian People's Party (ÖVP)            1,595,526  31.5    62  +15
Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) 1,361,746  26.9    52    0
Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ)           1,316,442  26.0    51  +11
NEOS – The New Austria (NEOS)              268,518   5.3    10   +1
Peter Pilz List (PILZ)                     223,543   4.4     8  New
The Greens – The Green Alternative (GRÜNE) 192,638   3.8     0  –24
My Vote Counts! (G!LT)                      48,234   1.0     0  New
Communist Party of Austria Plus (KPÖ+)      39,689   0.8     0    0

Note that in central European parliamentary systems minority coalitions are in principle avoided as being seen as "unstable". So a coalition would need to hold a minimum 92 seats of 183 total seats in the Nationalrat.

The SPÖ would be mathematically the only candidate available for this, but is perceived as too left-wing for/by Kurz.

Going alone as a party would be theoretically possible, but that would risk that for every law to be passed a new majority would have to be found –– or his whole government brought down via a destructive Motion of no confidence.

So Kurz really only had the option to move away from his right-wing goals and compromise with the SPÖ, or "call a snap-election". As that compromise seems out of the question for Kurz and his right-wing competitor is now weakened by the scandals, the choice seems obvious.

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