Austria set to elect Sebastian Kurz, the world’s youngest ever leader
AUSTRIA is set to elect the world’s youngest ever leader — a right-wing 31-year-old politician who pledged to cut all benefits for foreigners.
Nicknamed “wunderwuzzi” or “wonderkid”, Sebastian Kurz, 31, topped the poll with over 31.5 per cent of the vote, but is expected to seek a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPO).
“I promise I will fight for great change in this country. It’s time to establish a new political style and a new culture in this country,” Kurz said.
Kurz’s party People’s party (OVP) is expected to form a coalition with the anti-immigration FPOe of Heinz-Christian Strache, 48.
It would be the first time it has entered government since 2000 under Joerg Haider.
Like the Alternative for Germany and France’s National Front, the FPOe has raised concerns about a record influx of migrants into Europe.
The strategy of “putting Austrians first” propelled Austria’s foreign minister Kurz to near-rock star status.
In slick campaign adverts of him scaling the Alps, Kurz promised to slash taxes and red tape and “return this beautiful country to the peak”.
He called for illegal migration into Europe to be stopped and for benefits to be cut and capped for asylum seekers.
He said: “We must stop illegal immigration to Austria because otherwise there will be no more order and security.”
His party was founded by ex-Nazis in the 1950s — Strache flirted with Neo-Nazism in his youth — and is highly critical of the EU.
In December, the FPOe almost won the presidency and topped opinion polls in the midst of Europe’s migrant crisis.
But since taking over the OeVP in May and rebranding it as his personal “movement”, Kurz has stolen some of Strache’s thunder by talking tough on immigration and criticising the European Union as well.
Kurz has been foreign minister since 2013, then 27, two years after he left university — the youngest top diplomat in Europe.
When a new wave of migrants and refugees seeking to relocate to Europe became a continent-wide concern in 2015, he called for tougher external border controls, better integration and stringent control of “political Islam” funded from abroad.
He also organised the shutdown of the popular overland route through the West Balkans many newcomers were using to reach the EU’s prosperous heartland.
The People’s Party, then lagging in third place and long seen as a stodgy old boys network, made him leader.
Kurz set out to reinvent the party’s image after securing guarantees for unprecedented authority.
The youthful, Vienna-born politician turned out to be the tonic the party needed, helping it shrug off criticism that it’s been part of the political establishment for decades.
Noting that his centre-right party had triumphed over the rival Social Democrats only twice since the end of World War II, Kurz called Sunday’s election a “historic victory.”
This story originally appeared in The Sun and has been republished with permission.