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Austrian party leader resigns over harassment accusations

Peter Pilz, a former leader of the Austrian Green party and ..

Peter Pilz, a former leader of the Austrian Green party and founder of the Pilz List party, resigned on Saturday after 31 years in parliament.

Austrian weekly Falter reported Saturday that Pilz, 63, had groped a female employee of the center-right European People’s Party during a conference in the Alps in 2013.

In response to the allegation, Pilz told the newspaper he had been drunk at the time and said: “I can’t comment on it. I’m sorry. But if there are two witnesses, I will resign. I have high standards and these apply to me as well.”

At a press conference Saturday, Pilz stressed that, while he did not remember the incident, he took the allegation “utterly seriously.”

He also hit back at allegations made by a female former Green Party colleague who accused Pilz of verbal and physical harassment, saying the accusations were politically motivated, according to Austrian media reports.

The Greens suffered huge losses after Pilz, one of the party’s leading figures, broke away earlier this year to form his own movement, Pilz List. His new party cleared the 4 percent threshold for entering parliament in last month’s election and handed a major defeat to the Greens, whose support fell to 3.9 percent from more than 12 percent in 2013.

Martha Bißmann will take over his parliamentary mandate, but Pilz has not said whether he will continue as party leader.

“It will be up to him whether and how he continues to support the party,” fellow party member Wolfgang Zinggl told Austria media.

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