Austrian party leader quits parliament over accusation of sexual assault

November 4, 2017 16:40
1 minute read.
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VIENNA, Nov 4 - The fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal spread to Austria on Saturday as one of the country's best-known politicians said he would give up his seat in parliament over an allegation of sexual assault.

Veteran left-wing lawmaker Peter Pilz, 63, has been a fixture in Austrian politics for decades, having made a name for himself railing against arms deals with countries accused of human rights abuses and leading investigations into corruption like one this year connected to Austrian fighter-jet purchases.

He also recently pulled off a political coup - leaving the Greens this summer to form his own party, Pilz List, which not only beat the Greens in last month's parliamentary election, it also passed the 4 percent threshold for entering parliament, which the Greens fell just short of.

Weekly newspaper Falter reported on Saturday that Pilz had repeatedly groped a female employee of the centre-right European People's Party during a conference in the Alps four years ago. The article included her description of the incident. She said Pilz was "relatively drunk" at the time.

Pilz -- one of the more colourful figures in Austrian politics, a straight talker fond of singing rock songs like "Wild Thing" at party events -- said he could not remember what happened.

"Not remembering is no excuse," Pilz told a news conference, adding that Falter's editor in chief had assured him the report was thoroughly researched.

"Because of these accusations, which I take extremely seriously, even though I do not remember, I will not take up my mandate in the coming parliament. I will not be at the swearing-in ceremony on Thursday," he said.

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