Austria: Sebastian Kurz cruising towards Chancellorship

Vienna – Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s fresh-faced 30-year old foreign affairs minister is leading in the opinion polls and looks set to become the next Chancellor, writes Blaise Gauquelin in Le Monde.
sebastian kurz
Sebastian Kurz with British Brexit Secretary David Davis

At just 30 years old, the unflappable Sebastian Kurz looks set to become the world’s youngest head of state (with the exception of the regent of San Marino).

‘With blue eyes that still seem sincere, and hair obediently slicked back,’ Mr Kurz took over the leadership of his party – the Christian Conservative ÖVP – this May, and triggered a snap election when he refused to continue to govern in a coalition with the Social Democratic SPÖ party.

Mr Kurz is positioning himself as the best antidote to Austria’s powerful extreme-right FPÖ party, who just missed out on the presidency last December.

He is the most popular politician in Austria, a country with a population of 8.7 million.

A recent poll published by the liberal daily newspaper Der Standard saw him leading his opponents on 30%.

But how has this ‘composed young man’ managed to ‘outshine the current social democratic Chancellor, Christian Kern, as well as the far-right Heinz-Christian Strache, a friend of Marine le Pen?’ asks Gauquelin.

“He took power from the inside,” via the young Conservatives, explains Peter Jankowitsch, a former SPÖ Foreign Minister. “He hasn’t made a single mistake.”

“I was very young.”
‘When others when off on an Erasmus year, Mr Kurz was preparing his conquest of power.’

“I was named as secretary of state for integration at just 24 years old,” he says, “it’s true that I was very young.”

“But now, after six years in government and two successive ministerial portfolios, no one can seriously say I lack experience.”

Bit by bit, he seduced his way into power, says Gauquelin, ‘putting together just the right network. CEOs, regional leaders, key editorialists: all were methodically approached and seduced.’

But none of that would have mattered though, says Profil, if he didn’t have a way of getting through to the people.

‘His Viennese accent is well-liked in the countryside, particularly because he doesn’t sound like an heir: his dad is a labourer, and his mum is a teacher.’

Mr Kurz wants more sovereignty for EU nation-states, and he has hard-line stances on refugees, immigration, and Turkey.