Yesterday, parliamentary immunity was lifted for former chancellor Sebastian Kurz in a unanimous National Council vote, allowing ongoing corruption investigations to continue. Kurz allegedly used taxpayer money to pay a pollster and the tabloid Österreich in exchange for positive coverage several years ago, with the presumed goal of taking over the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and ultimately becoming chancellor, which he did. He is also under investigation for allegedly making false statements in investigators during the Ibiza affair.
In early October, on the same day that news of a new investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office for Corruption and Financial Affairs (WKStA) broke, damaging text messages between Kurz and several of his closest political circle were leaked to the press. Kurz stepped back as chancellor, but remains at the helm of the ÖVP and is now head of faction in the National Council – where he would have automatically enjoyed parliamentary immunity.
Support for lifting immunity was supported by all political parties – and welcomed by ÖVP in a statement. “Sebastian Kurz has always said that he would, of course, reliquish his immunity. He and the entire ÖVP have emphasized that they not only support lifting immunity but explicitly welcome it,” MP Klaus Fürlinger said. The ÖVP said “disinformation” spread by opposition parties would not survive a fact check, are confident that investigations will rapidly bring the truth to light.
Social Democratic MP Selma Yildirim (SPÖ), by contrast, accused the ÖVP of a behind-the-scenes “tug of war” around the scheduling of an Immunity Committee meeting. On Tuesday, that committee lifted Kurz’s immunity, paving the way for Thursday’s National Council vote.
Immunity was also lifted for MP Michael Schnedlitz, secretary general of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), who is under investigation for alleged incitement. After a child was killed, he posted on Facebook: “Immigration kills. Period.” Both the FPÖ and the capitalist, socially liberal NEOs voted against the decision, saying that his act was connected to his position in Parliament.