May 19, 2019 / 4:50 PM / 3 months ago

Austrian Social Democratic provincial governor ends cooperation with Freedom Party

VIENNA (Reuters) - The Social Democratic governor of Austria’s Burgenland province ended cooperation with the Freedom Party on Sunday and called early elections, in the latest political turmoil unleashed by a scandal at the far right party over state contracts.

Heinz-Christian Strache resigned as Freedom Party leader and Deputy Chancellor on Saturday after he was caught on video offering to fix government contracts.

Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz responded by calling snap parliamentary elections, which are expected to be held in September, and political parties have lost no time in moving to an election footing.

The cooperation in Burgenland may have made it difficult for the Socialists to distance themselves nationally from the Freedom Party.

Burgenland Governor Hans Peter Doskozil, who has been in charge for less than three months, said on Sunday the provincial elections scheduled for May 2020 would be brought forward.

A spokesman for Doskozil said cooperation with the Freedom Party at a provincial level had been good and an election date would be set together.

In a sign the Freedom Party has also switched to election mode, Interior Minister Herbert Kickl on Sunday accused Kurz of breaking his promise to continue the national coalition if Strache quit.

In a Facebook post, he said Kurz had demanded a “horse trade” that would have required Kickl to resign and hand control of the interior ministry to Kurz’s conservatives.

A spokesman for the conservatives said the demand had been “one facet” in Saturday’s negotiations before the snap election was called.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Mark Potter

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