A parliamentary committee of inquiry into developments and revelations as a result of the Ibiza affair begins in Austria this Wednesday.

According to the title, which the opposition could choose according to minority law for parliamentary investigations, it is about “ÖVP corruption”.

Consequently, the party leader of the Christian-democratic ÖVP, Chancellor Karl Nehammer, is invited as the first person to provide information.

Nehammer already rejected the accusation implied in the title after his promotion to the party leadership.

Overall, the ÖVP has "no corruption problem," he assured.

Stephen Lowenstein

Political correspondent based in Vienna.

  • Follow I follow

It should be about the allocation of posts and the use of public funds for party purposes between 2017 and 2021, specifically about “natural and legal persons associated with the ÖVP” between 2017 and 2021. Politically translated, that means it’s about Sebastian’s time Briefly as chairman of the ÖVP.

In autumn 2021, under the pressure of investigations by the public prosecutor and the resulting demands of the Green coalition partner, Kurz resigned first as Chancellor and then as party chairman and left politics.

Far away from the actual Ibiza affair

The whole thing actually has nothing to do with the Ibiza affair as such, i.e. the secretly recorded video by former FPÖ boss Heinz-Christian Strache that became known in 2019.

After the end of the then ÖVP-FPÖ coalition and Strache's departure from politics, the political focus turned to the ÖVP, even in the now closed "Ibiza-U-Committee".

The allegations from mobile phone chats are fed primarily by top officials close to the ÖVP in the justice, interior and justice ministries.

Some of the corresponding devices were confiscated by the corruption prosecutor's office and are virtually public citation material, also because the former investigative committee was able to request the material and from there it was sent directly to the media.

One of the mobile phones has apparently been read by a data thief and has since ended up on the online platform "Zackzack" of Peter Pilz, who sat for the Greens for many years and then with his own list as a member of the National Council.

He has also been invited to the new committee as a person to provide information.

Beyond the confusing multitude of real or supposed affairs, these chats give the impression that top officials understood and acted as levers for party-political interests of the ÖVP.

The excitement is often due to a tone of voice that is due to the actually very confidential nature of such conversations.

For example, the social-democratic SPÖ was outraged that an ÖVP state politician wrote to one of the officials who was once her close collaborator that "reds" were "rabble".

"Incitement to abuse of office" suspected

More politically relevant are the chats where it comes to appointments for which politicians intervened.

Such a case has again called the public prosecutor on the scene.

August Wöginger, who is now the ÖVP's "club chairman" (group leader) in the National Council, apparently supported the desire of a party friend from his native state of Upper Austria to become head of a regional tax office.

The man was given the job, but then an unsuccessful applicant sued successfully.

The public prosecutors suspect "incitement to abuse of office", the parliament has meanwhile approved the investigation.

Wöginger has denied the allegation.

He says he thought the fellow party member was a qualified candidate and forwarded his request

The most serious are the allegations, because of which Sebastian Kurz finally had to resign.

It is about the fact that opinion polls are said to have been financed from the funds of the Ministry of Finance, which exclusively served the interests of the ÖVP - or before May 2017 Kurz's rise to the top of the ÖVP.

Chats by Thomas Schmid, the top official there at the time, give the impression that he had prompted the head of a polling institute to conceal the costs of the party-political investigations.

In the meantime, their extensive testimony at the public prosecutor's office, which is attached to the files accessible to all parties involved in the proceedings, has also become known.

The pollster admits to having charged the Ministry of Finance for the work on “political issues”.

However, she also stated that she had done this in consultation with ministry staff and had had little or no contact with Sebastian Kurz and his closest entourage.

Kurz has already stated that he sees himself as fully relieved.

The opposition sees it completely differently, they speak of the "System Kurz" and of the fact that he was the full beneficiary of all these machinations.