Foreign Policy Digital

Corruption and Collusion Can’t Stop Austria’s Far-Right

Austrian nationalists were caught red-handed in an attempted foreign conspiracy—but the party’s future is as bright as ever.

In a rap song he recorded in 2006, the then-leader of the populist, far-right Freedom Party Austria (FPÖ), Heinz-Christian Strache, presented himself as a modern-day, incorruptible Robin Hood. “Have you got something to hide?” he growled at the center-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and center-left Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) grand coalition government. He railed against alleged “scandals, bribery, corruption, and treason” and promised that through his leadership “the truth will someday come to light.”

Thirteen years after Strache released that song, and more than one year after he became Austria’s vice chancellor and deputy head of government, that day finally arrived—just not in the way his fans imagined it would. Last week, Strache and one of his closest political allies, Johann Gudenus, were revealed to have solicited a conspiracy with the purported niece of a Russian oligarch. In a secretly filmed prior to Austria’s 2017 general election, Strache and Gudenus promised to award the Russian government lucrative contracts in exchange for political donations and commitment from the oligarch’s niece to take over Austria’s most influential tabloid

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