BERLIN — Austria’s chancellor called on Saturday for snap elections after the country’s far-right vice chancellor resigned over a secretly filmed video from 2017 that renewed questions about whether Russia had a direct line into a government at the heart of Europe.
The video showed Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the far-right Freedom Party promising government contracts to a woman claiming to be the niece of a Russian oligarch.
“After yesterday’s video, enough is enough,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told a room packed with reporters Saturday night in the capital, Vienna. He said he had asked Austria’s president to hold a new election “as soon as possible.”
The video was the worst in a series of missteps that ultimately brought down Austria’s governing coalition. It raised anew concerns about whether the Freedom Party had been working to undermine liberal democracy and media freedoms in the country while it helped Kurz govern as the junior party in his coalition.
For weeks, opposition parties had called on Kurz to end his controversial coalition with the Freedom Party, with its well-documented links to far-right extremists and to Russia, which have increasingly worried allies at home and abroad.
The scandal occurs at an important political moment in the European Union. Across the Continent, far-right, populist leaders are campaigning hard before this coming week’s elections for the European Parliament and seem poised to increase their share in the chamber.
Many of Europe’s populists share the intentions of President Vladimir Putin of Russia to widen political divisions and weaken Western institutions. Those tactics have involved interfering in democratic campaigns including the United States 2016 elections. And a Russian woman, Maria Butina, was sentenced to 18 months in prison last December after admitting that she had been part of that effort.