Robert Harneis –TDO- (FRANCE) Right wing ÖVP leader Sebastian Kurz will soon be Austria's youngest ever chancellor. He will also be the youngest leader on the world stage. All the talk is of his age – 31 years, but more important are the opinions and policies upon which he was elected with 31.4 % of the vote.
The 31-year-old Kurz broke up the last government in May when he pulled his conservative ÖVP out of a coalition with the centre-left SPÖ, who are the big losers with 26%. Their refugee policies largely explain their defeat.
Kurz entered government in 2013 as foreign minister just three months after being elected to its parliament. He has quickly established himself as a critic of much of the European project, and he has not been afraid to identify its failings after Britain voted to leave. He has fiercely attacked the European élite over their handling of the refugee crisis. He fought off a strong anti-immigration challenge by the FPÖ party who increased their vote share by over 5 percent and could come second, depending on the postal vote results. He must now form a coalition and there is little likelihood that he will moderate his views even if he wanted to.
In December, the FPÖ almost won the presidency and topped opinion polls in the midst of Europe's migrant crisis. Like AfD, French National Front chief Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands -- who both congratulated Strache on Twitter on Sunday -- the FPÖ has stoked concerns about a record influx of migrants into Europe. But Kurz effectively stole the anti-immigrant party’s clothes.
He believes that the EU’s failure to deal adequately with the immigration crisis caused the Brexit vote. Last year in the wake of Brexit he said ‘The unlimited intake of refugees and the EU's inability to act has now shaken up the foundation of the union.’
As foreign minister, Kurz claims credit for closing the Balkan migrant trail in 2016 that saw hundreds of thousands of refugees trek into western Europe. ‘I promise I will fight for great change in this country. It's time to establish a new political style,’ Kurz said on Sunday. Kurz has openly praised Hungary's populist premier Viktor Orban, while his party is ambivalent at best about the EU.
Vienna will hold the EU's presidency in the second half of 2018, just when Brussels wants to conclude Brexit talks. The election result is another nail in the coffin of an ever-closer European Union proposed by France’s Emmanuel Macron.