At 31, Sebastian Kurz (video above) is set to be the world’s youngest head of state. As the leader of the Austrian People’s Party (OVP), which won nearly 32 per cent of the votes in the Austrian elections on Sunday, he is most likely to stake his claim for the post of Chancellor.
Already the foreign minister in the current government, Kurz comes with both political and ministerial experience despite his youth. Austrian tabloids have affectionately dubbed him wunderwuzzi (wonder hotshot), while global tabloids have compared him to the likes of Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau (and not just because of his strong public-relations skills and a stellar selfie game).
Kurz announced his candidacy for Chancellor in June, after becoming the leader of the centre-right OVP in May. This led to a massive rebranding of the party. On Sunday’s ballot, his name was listed next to the “New People’s Party”, while the party’s official colour was changed from black to turquoise. Kurz’s campaign, too, has revolved around the idea of “change”, apparent from the re-branding of his party, with posters all over the country announcing it is “time for something new”.
As the video below reveals, Kurz’s supporters often praise him for his modern strategies, and for being young, dynamic and a “millennial”, but his critics have just as much to say. They argue that he has embraced a divisive agenda, evident from his anti-immigration policies, his drive for a burqa ban, his intention to shut down Islamic kindergartens, and his affinity for forming a coalition with the far-right, nationalist Freedom Party (FPO), which will be needed in case the OVP falls short of a majority.
Though Kurz is strongly pro-European Union, his anti-immigration stance – which aims to shut down migrant routes to Europe, cap benefits for refugees and bar immigrants from receiving benefits for certain immigrants – has been so aggressive and inflammatory (video below), that the FPO has actually accused him of plagiarism.
Kurz’s affiliation with the nationalist party has also raised concerns among Jews in Europe. The World Jewish Congress has warned Kurz that the FPO is “still full of xenophobes and racists and is, mildly put, very ambiguous towards Austria’s Nazi past” reported The New York Times. However, as Foreign Minister, Kurz released a video (below) strongly condemning anti-Semitism.