Austrian right-wing leader voices against early comeback of besieged colleague

Source: Xinhua| 2019-08-20 21:16:39|Editor: ZX
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VIENNA, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- The new leader of the Austrian right-wing populist Freedom Party (FPÖ) Norbert Hofer has voiced against an early political comeback of former party leader and vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, who stepped down over corruption allegations.

Though backing his predecessor over the allegations, Hofer acknowledged in an interview with state broadcaster ORF on Monday that the key figure in the so-called "Ibiza affair" that brought down the coalition government damaged the party's reputation through his actions.

He noted, however, that Strache, who has been active as an FPÖ politician since the early 1990s, has done much for the party, and has fought for its values. He said he hopes his former colleague can overcome the challenges he presently faces.

Since his resignation from office in May, Strache has made numerous indications that he would like to resume his political career.

However, Hofer was opposed to this happening too soon, noting that Strache would need to beat "all legal charges" laid against him first.

In addition, all investigations against him would either have to be dropped or see him acquitted of the allegations in question.

As part of the Ibiza incident, Strache had appeared to offer government contracts to purported representatives of a Russian oligarch in exchange for favorable political coverage, leading to an investigation of both himself and former party colleague Johann Gudenus on a multitude of accusations.

Both he and Gudenus have more recently also become implicated in a separate case involving the appointment of a party colleague to the board of Casinos Austria, for which they are accused of having potentially made political promises to gambling company Novomatic, which owns 17 percent of the casino operator.

Strache has emphatically denied the allegations, however, and was also defended by his successor, who said the allegations did not add up.

Hofer, who was a candidate in the 2016 presidential election as well as transport minister under Strache until May, is set to lead his party into the Sept. 29 legislative election, with polls currently putting his party in third place on about 20 percent of the vote.