You may admire the man him for this masterful move, were it not for the fact that the brilliant rochade from chancellor to party and club chairman is as perfidious as it is ingenious. Perfidious because it damages Austrian democracy. Sebastian Kurz, this obedient disciple of Machiavell with the winningly innocent face of a best of class, has fooled them all. First of all, the Greens under their brave but not too perspicacious chairman, Werner Kogler. That was to be expected, because they could never hold a candle to this master of beautiful appearances. And his party willingly followed him instead of upholding its moral principles. The example of Donald Trump, who cleverly uses his martyr role for catching votes, seems to have reached Austria as well. Above all, Kurz has tricked the judiciary, because as a member of parliament he is protected from any further investigation. And the citizens of Austria? As they had paid for their own indoctrination with their tax money, most of them are ready and willing to believe in his innocence. They even have to, because no one can contradict him anymore when he mantra-like affirms that all accusations against him are simply false. Yes, he too may have some all-too-human weaknesses – who among us doesn’t? – but he certainly did not knowingly act against the law. This is nothing but slander by his enemies, he says.
We may see this as an opening for a fresh career that will be denied to the brutal macho Donald Trump – the career of a man unjustly persecuted by vicious enemies and envious opponents. In this role he may eventually rise to become a kind of saint in the eyes of the public. You guessed right: Saint Sebastian.
If Mr. Kurz succeeds in continuing to play this role convincingly – he certainly has all the talent to do so -, we may safely predict that his career is by no means over, but only beginning. Kurz may lean back, he no longer needs to justify himself to the judiciary, he no longer needs to refute the accusations against him, because his immunity protects him against the judiciary. But once the latter is condemned to silence, the presumption of innocence will turn into certainty among average citizens. At the next or subsequent elections, a seemingly completely rehabilitated ex-Chancellor Kurz could well become chancellor again – his head then comfortably wreathed in the halo of the unjustly persecuted.
And his statement that he would ask the Parlament to lift his immunity?
I don’t believe a word of it. If that were serious, then the perfidious personnel rochade would have been set up for nothing. No, after an extradition request by the public prosecutor’s office, his followers will unanimously affirm that they are deeply convinced of their chairman’s innocence and will therefore vote against extradition. And the Greens? They have become so intoxicated with the sweet elixir of power that it is enough to endanger their projects to make them just as docile. The only pawns will be people like Thomas Schmid and a few others whom the judiciary may continue to pursue. But no one will shed a tear for them anyway.
Yes, it is a blessing that the crazy idea of a four-party coalition will not be realized. Kurz was right: that would have led to chaos and instability. But it was not right for the Greens to tie their continued cooperation only to Kurz’s replacement. They should have insisted that his immunity should by all means be lifted after a corresponding request by the judiciary. If that does not happen – and it would be a miracle if it does – the damage to Austrian democracy will be no less severe.