New scandals of the ÖVP – politics

Anyone who would have thought that the change in the chancellery from Sebastian Kurz to his successor Karl Nehammer would bring a little peace to Austria – and to the governing party ÖVP – would be disappointed. Not only does the sword of Damocles still hover over the party from tens of thousands of chat messages from former Kurz confidante Thomas Schmid, which the Economic and Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (WKStA) has not yet evaluated. Now there are more text messages – politically very unpleasant for the party – which are said to have been read primarily from the mobile phone of Michael Kloibmüller, former head of cabinet and intimate of numerous conservative interior ministers.

It is one of many fateful twists and turns in the uncovering of Austrian political scandals: during a company outing in 2017, Kloibmüller’s mobile phone fell into the water on a boat tour; an IT expert from the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution was supposed to destroy it, but instead sold the stored data to someone else. Now these are on detours at the online magazine Zackzack by former Green MP Peter Pilz and made some headlines. On Wednesday e-mails became public showing examples of what is called a “postenschacher” in Austria; Chats from 2016 followed on Thursday, in which employees of the then Foreign Minister Kurz asked the Ministry of the Interior for a few “bangers on foreign law”.

The first complex is about a management post in the politically very influential senior public prosecutor’s office in Vienna, for which two lawyers who were not close to the ÖVP had applied: the head of the Vienna public prosecutor’s office, Maria-Luise Nittel, and the head of the WKStA, which was hated within the party, Ilse-Maria Vrabl-Sanda. According to the available chats, the then Minister of Justice Wolfgang Brandstetter is said to have urged a Supreme Court judge, Eva Marek, to run for office in order to prevent the two promising and highly qualified women from running. For Marek, that meant a step backwards in salary and career, compensated with promises that she would later be secured a top position in the judiciary.

Austrian media write of a “framed game”

Marek did as he was told, applied, became head of the senior public prosecutor’s office – but when two years later her desired post at the general prosecutor’s office, the highest public prosecutor’s office in the republic, became vacant, Brandstätter wanted nothing more to do with his promise. There followed numerous angry and sarcastic text messages from Marek to the minister: “Dear Wolfgang! Thank you for the embarrassing presentation in Perskomm. Thank you (…) for allowing me to help you out of a hopeless situation. In other words, Nittel and Vrabl were prevented had to.” After an unbelievable humiliation, he didn’t “save her from shame”. This was followed by interventions by her husband, who was well connected in the ÖVP, with the Lower Austrian governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner, with the then Minister of the Interior Wolfgang Sobotka, and with the aforementioned senior official in the Ministry of the Interior, Kloibmüller. Everyone pretends to be deaf, Marek had apparently done his duty. Years later she returned to the Supreme Court.

The Austrian media write of a “framed game” and ask when Marek, who allegedly contributed to this charade, will be recalled from her current position. ZackzackEditor Peter Pilz calls the chats from the Ministry of the Interior an “X-ray image of the Turkish regime”. Like many other documents from the Ministries of Interior, Justice and Finance, the Kloibmüller chats will also play a role in the so-called ÖVP committee of inquiry in Parliament. He wants to start his interviews in March and published a first list of witnesses on Wednesday. Ex-Interior Minister Chancellor Nehammer is the first to be heard in the committee to “clarify allegations of corruption against ÖVP government members”. Pilz, who was also one of the first people to provide information, announced to the SZ that he would “bring all the chats with him”.

In the chats published on Thursday between a confidant of Kurz, who was preparing his boss’s promotion to the chancellery, and Kloibmüller, the Ministry of the Interior is being used for Kurz’s agenda and asked for measures, the conditions of detention for asylum seekers who have committed a crime and the earnings for community work linked to a positive asylum application; that is a “hidden tightening”.

There is also currently excitement about polls by pollster Sabine Beinschab, who plays a key role in the current WKStA investigation into advertising corruption surrounding ex-Chancellor Kurz. Apparently, the Ministry of Finance had asked which animal and car species Austrian voters compared individual politicians and parties with. Accordingly, Kurz was perceived as a dolphin and a squirrel, political opponents were seen as hyenas and monkeys. When it came to cars, the SPÖ came off as a VW bus and the ÖVP as a chic sports car. These studies are said to have cost taxpayers 150,000 euros. Despite urgent requests from journalists – and despite the obligation to provide information – the ministry does not release them.

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