Heinz-Christian Strache (born 12 June 1969) is an Austrian politician and dental technician who served as Vice-Chancellor of Austria from 2017 to 2019 before resigning for treasonous behavior. He was also Minister of Civil Service and Sports from January 2018 to May 2019 and chairman of the Freedom Party (FPÖ) from April 2005 to May 2019. He previously served as a member of the National Council from October 2006 until December 2017 and as a member of the municipal council and state legislature of Vienna (2001–2006).
|Vice Chancellor of Austria|
18 December 2017 – 22 May 2019
|Preceded by||Wolfgang Brandstetter|
|Succeeded by||Hartwig Löger|
|Minister of the Civil Service and Sport|
8 January 2018 – 22 May 2019
|Preceded by||Office established|
|Succeeded by||Juliane Bogner-Strauß|
|Chairman of the Freedom Party|
23 April 2005 – 19 May 2019
|Preceded by||Hilmar Kabas (acting)|
|Succeeded by||Norbert Hofer|
|Born||12 June 1969|
|Political party||Team HC Strache (since 2020)|
Freedom Party (until October 2019)
(m. 1999; div. 2006)
In May 2019, footage from 2017 was released showing Strache suggesting he could offer business contracts in exchange for political support from a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch. The video also shows his ideas about turning the country's largest-circulation tabloid, the Kronen Zeitung, into a mouthpiece of the FPÖ. On 18 May 2019, in the wake of the Ibiza affair, Strache announced his resignation as vice-chancellor of Austria, minister, and chairman of the Freedom Party.
On 1 October 2019, Strache announced that he was retiring from politics and suspending his membership in the Freedom Party. Despite his vow to retire from politics, Strache joined the then-regional Alliance for Austria (DAÖ) party in February 2020, and became its chairman on 14 May, and stated that the party would run in the 2020 elections for the Gemeinderat and Landtag of Vienna. The Oberpullendorf District branch of the FPÖ switched its affiliation to that of the DAÖ in April, and some other branches were considering similar moves, meaning the party was de facto operating on a national level thereafter.
Rise to national party leader
Strache, who is by profession a dental technician, has been active in the politics of Vienna since 1991. He was elected to the Vienna Parliament in 2001. In 2004, he replaced Hilmar Kabas as the leader of the FPÖ in Vienna. He had been considered a disciple of long-time national party leader Jörg Haider, but began to oppose him as the result of increased strife within the party in January 2005.
After a series of losses in state elections, rumours spread that Strache would run for the office of national party leader against Haider's sister, Ursula Haubner. The high risk of Haubner's defeat was probably one of the events that induced Haider to set up a new party, the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ). After the split, Strache was elected national party leader of the FPÖ on 23 April 2005.
State elections and campaign in Vienna
Since the split, Strache led the FPÖ further to the right. The FPÖ's results in state elections in the last decade have been mixed. While it dropped out of the Styria Landtag and was reduced to 5.7% in Burgenland, it surpassed expectations in the Vienna elections of October 2005. Strache himself was the leading candidate in Vienna, and the party received 14.9% of votes. Strache's campaign, included slogans such as:
- Wien darf nicht Istanbul werden (Vienna must not become Istanbul). A variation on an FPÖ slogan from the Haider era: Wien darf nicht Chicago werden. Vienna has a significant Turkish minority, the FPÖ is opposed to Turkish EU membership and it refers to the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the Battle of Vienna in 1683, a symbolic historic victory of the West over Islamic and Ottoman onslaught.
- Daham statt Islam ("at home" [i.e., folks who are native to Austria] instead of Islam)
- Deutsch statt "nix verstehen" (German instead of "I don't understand")
- Pummerin statt Muezzin (Pummerin instead of muezzin). Pummerin is the main bell in St. Stephan's Cathedral in Vienna, and so a religious Christian symbol in Vienna.
- Heimat im Herzen (Homeland in the heart)
- Arbeit statt Zuwanderung (Jobs instead of immigration)
In January 2007, stills taken from a video shot in the late 1980s were published showing a uniformed Strache allegedly participating in paramilitary training activities. Other people on the pictures were claimed to be known neo-Nazis. Strache has denied the allegations, stating the pictures are of him playing paintball as an 18-year-old. In his initial reaction, Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer referred to the incident as a "folly of youth" (Jugendtorheit). At the end of January, further pictures were published, allegedly showing Strache performing a Nazi salute (the Kühnen salute). Strache denied the allegations prior to publication of the pictures. After publication, Strache argued that the picture showed him ordering three beers and was not a Nazi salute. Austrian Jewish community leaders criticized the government for its lack of response.
2010 Vienna elections
In the 2010 Vienna elections for Mayor of Vienna, Vienna City Council, and district councils, Strache's party received 26% of the vote and increased their number of seats in the city council to 27. His support was strongest among young people under 30.
The campaign included slogans such as:
- Zu viel Fremdes tut niemandem gut. (Too much of what's foreign does nobody well.)
- Wir bewahren unsere Heimatstadt. Die SPÖ macht sie uns fremd. (We maintain our homeland-city. The SPÖ makes it foreign.)
- Wir glauben an unsere Jugend. Die SPÖ an Zuwanderung. (We believe in our youth. The SPÖ in immigration.)
- Wir schützen freie Frauen. Die SPÖ den Kopftuchzwang (We protect free women. The SPÖ protects the compulsory veil.)
- Mehr Mut für unser Wiener Blut (More courage for our Viennese blood.)
- Uns geht's um die Wiener (To us, it's about the Viennese)
Strache was once again accused of xenophobia during his campaign and responded formally in the press to the allegations. In August 2012, Strache caused condemnation and outrage when posting a picture on Facebook that was a caricature depicting a banker with a hooked nose and Star of David cufflinks.
2019 European parliament elections
Strache campaigned for the FPÖ in the lead up to 2019 European Parliament election in Austria. In what The Guardian described as "doubling down" on rhetoric ahead of the election, Strache endorsed the far-right conspiracy of the great replacement. He claimed that "population replacement" was real, adding: "We don’t want to become a minority in our own country".
On 17 May 2019 a video was released from a July 2017 meeting in Ibiza, Spain, appearing to show Strache and Johann Gudenus discussing underhanded political practices. In the video, both politicians appeared receptive to proposals by a mysterious woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch Igor Makarov, discussing providing the FPÖ positive news coverage in return for business contracts. Strache and Gudenus also hinted at corrupt political practices involving other wealthy donors to the FPÖ in Europe and elsewhere. The scandal caused the collapse of the Austrian governing coalition and the announcement of a snap election. Strache is currently under investigation for misuse of party funds.
Strache was expelled from the FPÖ in December 2019 for his role in the scandal. In August 2020, the public prosecutor's office received an additional 5 minutes of video footage which appeared to relieve Strache from some of the accusations. In the uncut video, Strache had refused the decoy's offer and doing anything illegal. Strache accused Der Spiegel and the Süddeutsche Zeitung of showing selectively edited material.
Relationship with Trump administration
Strache flew to New York shortly after the election of Donald Trump in December 2016 to meet with Michael Flynn at the Trump Tower. Flynn had just helped lead the effort to elect Trump and served as his National Security Advisor for 24 days in January through February 2017. Also in November, Austrian far-right politicians Norbert Hofer and Strache went to Russia in order to become go-betweens to facilitate cooperation between Putin and Trump. While in Moscow, the Freedom Party concluded a "working agreement" with Putin's United Russia Party. Flynn later resigned after information surfaced that he had misled the FBI and Vice President Mike Pence about the nature and content of his communications with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.
- "Austria far right: Freedom Party wins key posts in new government". BBC News. 16 December 2017.
- BBC Staff (May 18, 2019). "Heinz-Christian Strache: Vice-chancellor caught on secret video". BBC News. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
- Weise, Zia (May 17, 2019). "Austrian far-right leader filmed offering public contracts for campaign support". Politico. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
- Al-Serori, Leila; Das Gupta, Oliver; Münch, Peter; Obermaier, Frederik; Obermayer, Bastian (May 18, 2019). "Caught In The Trap". Süddeutsche Zeitung. Retrieved May 19, 2019.
A glance across the border is all you need to realize what he means, where the Hungarian public broadcasting system has already been the government's mouthpiece for several years. Even the privately held media there is largely under the control of people connected with Orbán. In such a situation, one doesn't have to worry much about unwanted criticism, and it's also easier to win elections. Freedom of the press? That's something that Strache also finds to be something of a nuisance...
- Germany, Süddeutsche de GmbH, Munich. "Das Strache-Video". Süddeutsche.de (in German). Retrieved 2019-05-18.
- Austrian government plunged into crisis over 'Ibiza affair'. France24.com, 18 May 2019.
- "Ex-leader of Austria's far-right Freedom Party to quit politics | DW | 01.10.2019". DW.COM. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
- "ORF (Austrian national broadcaster)".
- "Dateline World Jewry", April 2007, World Jewish Congress
- "Elections to the Vienna City Council 2010 - All results for Vienna". www.wien.gv.at.
- Strache support stronger among youth, in Heute
- Strache says, "I am not unfriendly to foreigners." in Heute
- "Austria Freedom Party condemned for Nazi-like cartoon". BBC.
- "Austrian deputy leader endorses far-right term 'population replacement'". The Guardian. 29 April 2019.
- "Austria far-right leader panned for use of 'population replacement' term". Times of Israel. 1 May 2019.
- "Austrian far-right sticks by 'population exchange' rhetoric". Reuters. 1 May 2019.
- Staff (May 18, 2019). "Austrian Government in Crisis as Nationalists Exposed in Video". France24. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
- Schuetze, Christopher F. (May 18, 2019). "Highlights From the Video That Brought Down Austria's Vice Chancellor". The New York Times. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
- "Austrian chancellor calls for new elections after leader of far-right ally resigns in scandal". www.washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2019-05-18.
- "Austrian Leader Calls for Snap Election After Far-Right Vice Chancellor Resigns". www.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2019-05-18.
- "Austria chancellor calls for snap election after corruption scandal". www.bbc.com. Retrieved 2019-05-18.
- "Austria: Far-right ex-leader Strache investigated for reported misuse of party funds | DW | 26.09.2019". DW.COM. Retrieved 2019-10-04.
- "Austria's far-right party expels former leader over scandal". DW. AFP. 14 December 2019. Retrieved 16 December 2019.
- "Neue Sequenzen des Ibiza-Videos aufgetaucht – sie könnten Strache entlasten" (in German). Die Welt. 22 August 2020. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
- The Disturbing Connections Between Trump, Putin, and Austrian Neo-Nazis, Washington Monthly, Martin Longman, May 17, 2019. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
- Farhi, Arden; Brennan, Margaret; Dufresne, Louis; Gross, Katherine; Watson, Kathryn; Alemany, Jacqueline (February 14, 2017). "A timeline of Michael Flynn's contacts with Russia, his ouster and guilty plea". CBS News. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
- Trump's Sons Might Be the Ones to Sink Him, Esquire, Charles Pierce, December 20, 2016. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
- Austrian Far-Right Politicians Travel to Moscow to Grease Ties Between Trump, Putin, Foreign Policy, Robbie Gramer, December 19, 2016. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
- Haberman, Maggie; Rosenberg, Matthew; Apuzzo, Matt; Thrush, Glenn (February 13, 2017). "Michael Flynn Resigns as National Security Adviser". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
- National security adviser Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials, officials say, Washington Post, Greg Miller, Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima, February 9, 2017. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
- Trump: I fired Flynn because of what he told Pence, CNBC, Jacob Pramuk, February 16, 2016. Retrieved May 26, 2019.