Who Is Sebastian Kurz, Europe’s Youngest Leader?
At 31 years old, Sebastian Kurz is set to become the world’s youngest leader.
The conservative People’s Party (OVP) leader is poised to be the new Chancellor of Austria. Despite his young age, he already has significant political experience.
According to projections, OVP won around 30 percent of the vote.
In 2013, he was appointed Europe’s youngest-ever foreign minister. At 27 years old, he hosted talks between Iran, the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and the UK on the nuclear deal. In 2015, the landmark agreement was signed in Vienna.
He has steered the OVP further to the right. During the refugee crisis, he called for stricter border controls in Europe to discourage refugees from fleeing to Europe. He introduced laws preventing foreign organisations from financially supporting Austrian mosques, and said Muslims in the country should only be allowed government-approved German language Qurans. And he backed the “burka ban”, which prevents people from wearing a veil that covers the face in public.
In essence, Kurz has positioned the OVP close to the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO).
Refugees, he has promised, would not be allowed to receive benefits from the state unless they have lived in Austria for five years.
Before the October 15 election, he vowed to halt the influx of people fleeing war and persecution.
The OVP party is expected to rule with either the far-right FPO or the centre-left Social Democratic Party of Austria.
Kurz’s was an eager member of the OVP’s youth wing. Having helped the party grow, he rose through the ranks all the way to foreign minister.
At his own request, his portfolio would include managing integration. This led to him introduce the so-called “Islam Act” in 2015, which put restrictions on foreign money supporting Austrian mosques in an attempt to curb a rise in so-called “political Islam”.
Kurz has been likened to other young, charismatic leaders such as Emmanuel Macron of France and Justin Trudeau of Canada. However, Kurz’s politics overall are far more right-wing than the mostly liberal agendas of his French and Canadian counterparts.
In May 2017, Kurz was appointed as acting party leader of the OVP after the unexpected resignation of Reinhold Mitterlehner. Two months later, Kurz was officially elected as party leader, and the party quickly rose from the third spot in the polls to winning elections.
Kurz has worked towards creating a new, right-wing image that uses moderate language in an attempt to appeal to both left-wing and far-right voters.
He rebranded the party, renaming it “The New People’s Party” while campaigning that it was “time for something new”.
His main campaign message was to stop illegal immigration into Austria. As foreign minister, he played an important role in 2016 in closing down the Balkan route for refugees flowing into Europe.
During a campaign rally, Kurz said: “I can also promise today that we will end illegal migration to ensure more order and security in Austria.”