Heinz-Christian Strache, the former Austrian vice chancellor at the center of a scandal that brought down the country's last government, said Tuesday that he is suspending his membership in the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe)and ending his political career amid anger over its poor showing in a snap election.
The announcement came ahead of a meeting of the FPOe leadership and as some figures in the party raised the possibility of throwing him out. The party won around 16% of the vote, 10% points fewer than in Austria's 2017 election, as supporters either switched to Kurz's center-right People's Party or stayed home. Strache, who led the FPOe for 14 years, was forced to resign in May as vice-chancellor and party chief over the so-called "Ibiza-gate" tapes which showed him appearing to offer public contracts to a woman he believed was a Russian oligarch's niece in return for campaign help.
Earlier this month yet more allegations emerged against Strache, this time concerning his use of FPOe party funds. In order to "avoid at all costs an ordeal or any division for the FPOe," Strache told journalists that he was "suspending" his membership of the party until allegations against him are fully investigated and that he would undertake a "total withdrawal from politics and public life." While apologizing for his mistakes, Strache continued to insist that he had been the victim of a conspiracy targeting the party before the elections and dismissed all allegations against him as false.