How Austria has tightened laws to prevent political corruption

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How Austria has tightened laws to prevent political corruption
File Photo: A media corruption scandal felled Austria's 35-year-old right-wing Chancellor Sebastian Kurz gave fresh urgency to calls for reform of what critics say are unhealthy links between politicians and the press. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Austria on Friday tightened its anti-corruption law after a string of scandals that brought down top politicians, including former chancellor Sebastian Kurz.


The legislative changes approved by parliament mean it will be punishable to "buy a mandate", meaning anyone who accepts or solicits a bribe and then successfully runs for office will face jail time.

Kurz -- a 36-year-old long hailed as the "wunderkind" of Europe's conservatives -- resigned in 2021 amid a series of accusations in the
aftermath of the "Ibizagate" scandal that engulfed the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe).

After dropping to 16 percent in elections following the 2019 scandal, Kurz's former far-right coalition partner has regained popularity and
currently tops polls.

With the legal changes that take effect from September, Austria is seeking to close a loophole, allowing the prosecution of corruption committed before
someone takes office.

"This will put an effective stop to corruption in the future," the government said in a statement about the new law, which also imposes higher
penalties for graft-related offenses.

"Ibizagate" broke when a secretly filmed video showed then far-right leader and vice chancellor Heinz Christian Strache offering public contracts to a
woman he thought was a Russian oligarch's niece in exchange for party campaign support.

The video was recorded in 2017 on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza, just before Strache's FPOe came to power as junior partner in a Kurz-led government.

Following the video's publication, Strache resigned from all posts, and the government collapsed.


Charged with several corruption offenses that came to light in inquiries sparked by "Ibizagate," Strache has been acquitted.

Kurz -- under investigation on suspicion of corruption and giving false testimony -- also maintains his innocence and has not been charged to date.

Critics have slammed the legislative changes as not going far enough.

Transparency International said it welcomed that "there was finally some movement" but the reform fell far short of expectations.

It is still possible to donate to an organisation close to an office bearer in return for favours, the organisation said.


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