4602 - Castle Schlaining III

We have quite a crisis in Austria at the moment. You may remember our far-right “Freedom Party”, the party that constantly insists on being NOT a Nazi party. It’s the former party of Jörg Haider, the guy who greatly extended the range of “what can be said”.

Haider died behind the steering wheel of his luxury car in a foggy October night, when he drove far too fast and with far too much alcohol in his blood.

At that time he had already split the party, but his attempt to take over all the followers and leave the old party with all the debt, this mostly failed. His new party was successful in the province of Carinthia, where he was Governor, but nowhere else.

The original freedom party had a new leader, some Heinz Christian Strache, who likes to call himself H.C. Strache.

Strache, while always having been a cheap imitation of his former idol Haider, in the end had a surprising career as the so far longest-serving leader of the party.

Until now that is. Last Friday at 6pm excepts from a video were published by two respectable German newspapers. The video shows Strache and his long-time close friend Johann Gudenus in a Finca on Ibiza, meeting with the alleged daughter of a Russian oligarch.

The young woman claims to want to “invest” (actually launder) money in Austria, to buy Austria’s biggest newspaper and to financially support the Freedom Party with illegal donations. With almost incredible openness Strache offers to route federal business towards companies controlled by the “investor”.

It’s something everybody has supposed to happen behind the scenes, but never before has a politician been caught candidly discussing corruption in such a shameless manner.

The video exploded onto the political scene, just a week before the elections to the European Parliament. It is not clear so far who made it, neither is it clear why it is used exactly now. The making of the video was also clearly illegal and extremely expensive. The involvement of foreign secret services is rumored, but whatever the back story is, one thing is clear: It’s Strache, and he talks freely, boasting like a teenager, and almost everything is an image of total moral and political corruption.

One day later, Strache was stripped of all his political functions (Vice-Chancellor of Austria and Minister for Sports). A day or two later, Chancellor Kurz, a populist himself, dismissed the Minister of the Interior, head of the Police, because at the time the video was made, he could impossibly not have known about the affair. Kurz’s argument was, that he can’t investigate against himself. As a consequence, the other ministers of the Freedom Party resigned and the coalition broke.

How’s that for a crisis, huh? And it seems to still go on 😃