The world’s youngest leader, 31, wins power in Austria
The Austrian Foreign Minister, Sebastian Kurz, claimed the win on Sunday night after projections gave his party a comfortable lead with more than 90 per cent of the ballots counted. He is the leader of Austria’s right-leaning People’s Party.
Austria could now go on to resist efforts by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French president Emmanuel Macron to reform the bloc and expand co-operation on issues such as immigration. He also vows to leave the European Union.
This is a crushing blow to the European Union and essentially a strong vote against liberal politics.
Many took to twitter to express their enthusiasm for his win:
Austria’s Sebastian Kurz, pledges to stop payouts to migrants, & slash Austria’s red tape & keep the EU out of national affairs.
— John D (@MexicoRS78) October 15, 2017
Sebastian Kurz pledged “We will make Austria great again”. “We will stop the tax increases, stop immigration and shut down Islamic schools”. pic.twitter.com/eOMLDgUAUs
— Quinton Jackson (@alaskantexanQCT) October 15, 2017
Sebastian Kurz campaign:
— 4DC4USA 🇺🇸 (@4DC4USA) October 16, 2017
As well as his pledge on payouts to migrants, Kurz wants to slash Austria’s red tape and keep the EU out of national affairs.
At 31, Kurz is young even by the standards of Europe’s recent youth movement, which saw Macron enter the Elysee Palace at the age of 39 and Christian Lindner, 38, lead Germany’s liberal Free Democrats (FDP) back into the Bundestag.
Kurz and Lindner showed that young new faces can inject dynamism into old establishment parties that have lost their way with voters.
Kurz rebranded the OVP as the New People’s Party and changed its colours from black to turquoise.
Lindner used trendy black-and-white campaign posters that showed him staring at his smartphone to revitalise the FDP’s image.
Macron, who formed his own political movement, was able to paint himself as a rebel outsider despite having served for four years under failed French Socialist Francois Hollande.
And in Italy, where the two top candidates in next year’s election are likely to be Luigi Di Maio, the new 31-year-old leader of the upstart 5-Star movement and former prime minister Matteo Renzi, who at 42 looks old by Europe’s new standards.
By taking a hard line on immigration that left little daylight between him and the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), 31-year-old Foreign Minister Kurz managed to propel his People’s Party to first place and draw some support away from an FPO buoyed by Europe’s migration crisis.
Both parties increased their share of the vote from the last parliamentary election in 2013, marking a sharp shift to the right. Chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democrats were in a close race with the FPO for second place.
Today Kurz was pictured voting in the Austrian capital Vienna alongside his girlfriend Susanne Thier – a finance ministry worker who he met at the age of 18.
Without revealing which way he was leaning on coalition talks, the 31-year-old told his supporters: ‘It is our task to work with all others for our country.’
Austria, a wealthy country of 8.7 million people that stretches from Slovakia to Switzerland, was a gateway into Germany for more than 1 million people during the migration crisis that began in 2015.
Many of them were fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Austria also took in roughly one percent of its population in asylum seekers in 2015, one of the highest proportions on the continent.
Many voters say the country was overrun.
Kurz’s strategy of focusing on that issue appears to have paid off.
Kurz, named party leader only in May, has been careful to keep his coalition options open, but he called an end to the current alliance with the Social Democrats, forcing Sunday’s snap election.
He has pledged to shake up Austrian politics, dominated for decades by coalitions between those two parties.
While that would suggest he will turn to the anti-Islam FPO, he has also said there could be leadership changes within the losing parties, a possible hint at being willing to work with the Social Democrats if Chancellor Christian Kern were ousted as leader by Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil.
Kern, however, said he intended to stay on as party leader.
Asked if the loss would have an impact on his political career, Kern said: ‘No, I have said I will stay in politics for 10 years and there are nine years to go.’
The Social Democrats (SPO) have also opened the door to forming coalitions with the FPO, meaning the far-right party may be able to play the two parties off against each other during coalition talks.