On Saturday, November 4th, 2017, the head of the newly formed political party Liste Pilz was publically accused of sexual harassment. It sparked a second wave of media attention to the #metoo campaign in Austria

Founder of Liste Pilz and former green party member and Peter Pilz is facing allegations of sexual harassment. The Austrian weekly Falter has received multiple accounts – some dating back years – of Pilz having harassed female co-workers, and one attendee of the European Forum Alpbach, over the course of his political career.

After the first accounts went public, Pilz denied the allegations, which led to even more witnesses contacting the media. According to Falter, several of the alleged victims have stated that they would be prepared to give testimony in court. Pilz has resigned his position in parliament, issued a public apology and is now planning to recuse himself from Austrian politics. He has, however, stated that he plans to return to politics after a hiatus of – for now – undefined length.

On November 7th, Pilz posted the following apology on Facebook:

My apology,

It was never my intention to offend and hurt women with my behavior. But there is only one thing that truly matters: How what I do is perceived by others. I would therefore like to make a formal apology to all the women I have offended and injured with my behavior. It’s not about me, it’s about them. On Saturday I tried to find words for that in my press conference (thanks to neuwal.com for the transcript):

“I am one of these older, powerful men, some of whom still come from a different political culture. I am not a person who is particularly trying to be politically correct, and I probably never will be. I have a certain way of life. Some people think that’s OK and others say: “No, that’s not the way to do it.” Us older and in my case still – only just – powerful men must be willing to learn new things. I am opposed to our whole life being dominated by political correctness. But I am very much in favour of men in powerful positions like mine reflecting about it. Not only about our intentions and how we personally feel about things. But also, how those who work for us in weaker positions – especially if they are women – feel about it and how they perceive it. And I think, in that regard, there was something missing from my side. That also means people like me will have to reeducate themselves.

These questions about political culture are not specific to women. They are women’s and men’s questions. And me deciding not to accept the position of an MP has to do with realizing this responsibility. And it’s also a signal to my fellow men in similar positions: Let’s learn something from that. We can do better. And if I didn’t do a good job, I’m paying my own personal political price for it now. And then others will do better.”

I’m going to retire for a while now and I won’t be reachable. I need some space to work through what happened with my wife in peace and quiet. After that, I will ask our voters again to trust in me and the work I do, because I have no intention of withdrawing from politics. Many people expect me to learn from my private mistakes – rightly so. But just as many expect me to stand by my political promises: to undertake the best possible form of control in the new Parliament and by being a successful opposition force to lay the groundwork for a new majority against black-and-blue [editor’s note: a center-right government].

Our voters have elected eight outstanding women and men to the new National Council. I will now support these eight from the outside, with all my strength, knowledge and experience.

Peter Pilz

Translated from German by Nicolas Kristen

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