Pröll quits due to health ‘warning sign’

People’s Party (ÖVP) boss Josef Pröll has ended ongoing speculations about his health and role in the government by announcing his step down from all political roles.The former agriculture minister – who was sworn in as vice chancellor and finance minister in December 2008 – said today (Weds) he decided to retire after consultations with medical experts. Pröll explained that his state of health would not match the expectations and challenges as posed by a position in top-tier politics.The 42-year-old family father met a local doctor for a checkup after experiencing breathing difficulties during a trip to the province of Tyrol in mid-March. The physician decided to have Pröll airlifted to a clinic in Innsbruck amid fears he suffered from pulmonary embolism. Experts confirmed the doctor’s first-off estimation and ordered the outgoing ÖVP chief to undergo therapy until the end of April.A spokesman for Pröll recently said that the politician would return on 27 April while speculations he may resign increased. Pröll, who suffered from thrombosis twice in the past few years, said he found it “difficult” to make a decision on his future. The Lower Austrian politician however stressed that he was convinced he drew the right conclusions. He labelled the pulmonary embolism as a “warning sign” to himself.Pröll also lamented the “lack of decency of a few politicians” which – according to the outgoing ÖVP chairman – led to a decrease in trust in political leaders among the people. The statement is considered as an attack on Ernst Strasser. The former interior minister was forced to retire as a member of the European Parliament (MEP) after a secretly filmed video revealed how he offered to interfere in favour of possible business partners in the European Parliament (EP) for money.Pröll named Strasser as front runner of the ÖVP in the EP election in 2009. The decision sparked party-internal criticism since many expected MEP Othmar Karas to head the party’s campaign. The ÖVP came first in the ballot – also thanks to 112,000 preference votes for Karas.Fellow ÖVP members and political rivals unanimously wished Pröll the best for his personal future. Greens leader Eva Glawischnig said she was “personally impressed” by his decision, while ÖVP Salzburg boss Wilfried Haslauer said the occasion would also mean the chance for a “restart” for his party. Recent research revealed that the conservative party would be neck and neck with its coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPÖ), and the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) at 27 per cent each were Austrians asked to the polls now instead of 2013 when the next general election is due.Pröll took over from Wilhelm Molterer as federal chairman of the party after it garnered 26 per cent in the federal election of 2008, down by 8.3 per cent compared to the vote in 2006.Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner, Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Spindelegger and Maria Fekter, the ÖVP’s infamously right-wing interior minister, are all hotly tipped to succeed Pröll as both party leader and vice chancellor.