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Opposition pounces on pressurised ÷VP

The opposition plans to organise a series of extraordinary parliamentary meetings to raise the pressure on the People’s Party (ÖVP).

Members of parliament (MPs) representing the ÖVP in the anti-corruption commission dramatically reduced the number of witnesses to be questioned concerning the Federal Workers’ and Employees’ Association (ÖAAB) controversy. A magazine published by the organisation, which has strong ties with the ÖVP, reportedly received 10,000 Euros of so-called printing expenses by Telekom Austria (TA) through a lobbying and consulting company in 2007.

Werner Amon was the ÖAAB’s general secretary at that time. He heads the ÖVP delegation in the anti-corruption panel which started its investigations in January. State prosecutors want to investigate against Amon who denies that the transaction was evidence of an illicit subsidisation of the ÖVP. He asked his lawyers to check whether the prosecutors could be charged of abuse of office.

ÖVP whip Karlheinz Kopf underlined that his party had no intention to remove Amon from power while ÖVP chief Michael Spindelegger demanded a full clarification of the occurrences by the MP who is also in charge of his party’s education agenda. Spindelegger also announced that he had full trust in Amon’s credibility and honesty.

The Greens, the Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) showed a rather unusual sense of unity yesterday (Thurs) to issue a warning to the government. Greens MP Peter Pilz said the ÖVP must not try to cover up illegal actions of the past. He said all the disputed issues of the past would be raised in parliament in the coming weeks if the party rejected his faction’s suggested list of witnesses for the anti-corruption committee.

The opposition accused the ÖVP – which forms a government coalition with the Social Democrats (SPÖ) – of trying to take revenge for failing to end the anti-corruption investigations at an early stage. SPÖ President of the Parliament Barbara Prammer said the panel had her all-clear to keep investigating after summer. ÖVP MP Dorothea Schittenhelm found Spindelegger’s support by suggesting to pull the plug on the commission soon. She argued that only state prosecutors should investigate the various fraud, abuse of office, money laundering and bribery accusations.

Pilz said he would organise a debate about the illicit usage of TA money by Tyrolean politicians. This statement is seen as a blunt attack against Tyrolean ÖVP Governor Günther Platter. The former ÖVP interior minister was recently accused of allowing businesspeople to influence his political decisions.

Platter said there was nothing wrong with accepting invitations to attend hunting trips in his home province. He criticised journalists of dirty campaigning – but also promised to abstain from accepting invitations of this kind in the future. Platter said the people who arranged the hunting trips were personal friends. He argued that politicians had to be allowed to spend their leisure time the way they wanted. Platter denied any wrongdoing but his party could suffer from the upcoming special gatherings in Vienna since citizens of Tyrolean capital Innsbruck will elect a new city parliament next month.

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