Former Austrian vice-chancellor and populist Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Heinz-Christian Strache has, through preferential voting, secured the right to sit for his party in the European Parliament.
Strache, who was forced to resign as both vice-chancellor and leader of the FPÖ due to the so-called “Ibiza-Affair” that has since brought down Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s government this week, received over 37,000 preferential candidate write-in votes, which is enough to give him preferred candidate status. This was despite Strache being in last place, at number 42, on the European Parliament election list, Die Presse reports.
The campaign to write in Strache’s name as a preferential vote originated on social media under the hashtag #VoteStrache and the phrase “Unsere Rache: Vote Strache [Our Revenge: Vote Strache]” in the days leading up to the vote.
DEVELOPING: Austrian Government collapses https://t.co/f7nTdBqxCr
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 27, 2019
Whether or not Strache will take up his place as a member of the European Parliament is currently unclear, however; the former FPÖ leader did allegedly publish a Facebook post saying that he was happy to have the “great trust of citizens” and that he would accept the position, but the post was then said to have been deleted shortly after.
Within the FPÖ, Upper Austrian party leader and Deputy Governor Manfred Haimbuchner commented on the result saying that it as up to Strache to decide whether or not to accept the MEP position but others in opposition parties were critical of the former vice-chancellor re-entering politics so soon after the scandal.
Claudia Gamon, who won an MEP seat with the liberal NEOS party, said that Strache should not take up the mandate saying: “Someone who is under suspicion of corruption” shouldn’t take the post. She added that the Ibiza video had “unmistakably proven that he is completely unsuitable for any political office”.