After election drubbing, Austrian far-right leader leaves politics

Scandal-plagued Heinz-Christian Strache makes announcement amid anger over Freedom Party’s slump at the polls

Oct. 1, 2019

Heinz-Christian Strache, the former Austrian vice chancellor at the center of a scandal that brought down the country’s last government, said Tuesday he is suspending his membership in the far-right Freedom Party and withdrawing from politics amid anger over its poor showing in an early election.

Strache’s announcement came ahead of a meeting of the Freedom Party’s leadership and as some party members raised the possibility of throwing him out.

Strache led the party for 14 years until May, when a video showing him offering favors to a purported Russian investor triggered the collapse of conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s government. He also faces an investigation for suspected breach of trust over the alleged billing of private expenses to his party, which contributed to its weak election performance on Sunday.

The Freedom Party finished third with around 16.2% of the vote, 10 points fewer than in Austria’s 2017 election, as many supporters either switched to Kurz’s center-right People’s Party or stayed home.