Austria’s Kurz reelected to lead conservative People’s Party

World

In this handout photo released by Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during their talks in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — Austria’s conservative People’s Party, or OVP, voted overwhelmingly Saturday to reelect Chancellor Sebastian Kurz as its leader at a party gathering.

Kurz, 35, received the backing of 533 of 536 delegates, or 99.4%. He has led the party since 2017, and became the country’s youngest-ever chancellor later that year.

Addressing colleagues before the vote in St. Polten, Kurz spoke about a range of topics and policy priorities. He stressed the need to continue the country’s coronavirus vaccination campaign, and with regard to refugees from Afghanistan, said that Austria “shouldn’t take in more people than we can integrate.”

Saturday’s vote was a sign of the OVP’s confidence in Kurz, who has had a few difficult months politically. In May, he was put under investigation by anti-corruption authorities on suspicion that he made false statements to a parliamentary commission.

The hearings in question were to investigate the Ibiza affair, a scandal involving the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) leader Heinz-Christian Strache that triggered the collapse of Kurz’s previous governing coalition in 2019. Kurz has denied the allegations and resisted calls for his resignation.

He alluded to the situation in his speech, saying it had shown him the “dark side” of politics and admitting that there were days where he “questioned everything.” Still, he added, he has grown in response.

“The experience has actually made me even more resilient,” he said Saturday. “It has made me stronger, and it has made me more determined.”

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