A 31-year-old named Sebastian Kurz is projected to be Austria’s newest chancellor — and
he’s a bit of an anomaly.
He’s the youngest leader in the world, and marks a new tide of Millennials reaching the
highest levels of government.
But unlike most Millennials, Kurz is a right wing populist and nationalist.
For many people, he represents the face of the new far right youth movement in Europe.
So, who exactly is Sebastian Kurz, and what does he mean for Austria and the European
Well, Kurz initially rose to prominence at the age of 27, when he was elected Austria’s
youngest foreign minister in history.
His laser focus on prominent right wing issues, particularly immigration, pushed him to the
top of the polls.
His rapid advancement since then has been compared to other young leaders such as Canada’s
Justin Trudeau and France’s Emmanuel Macron.
But instead of capitalizing on left wing youth sentiment, Kurz appears to have modelled his
campaign after Austria’s far right 2016 presidential candidate, Norbert Hofer.
In the highly contested election, Hofer came within one percentage point of winning the
Presidency in one round of voting, but the Constitutional Court annulled the results
because of irregularities in voting.
Hofer ultimately lost in a subsequent round, but the surprising success of his extremist
anti-immigrant Freedom Party, which was founded by actual Nazis in 1956, was a major shift
in Austrian politics.
Now, Sebastian Kurz, of the less extremist, but still right-wing People’s Party, has
doubled down on anti-immigration sentiments.
As foreign minister, he closed routes in the Balkans preventing migrants from reaching
While campaigning for his party, Kurz has promised to cap refugee benefits, prevent
immigrants from being eligible for assistance for five years, and lower taxes.
The People’s Party was also recently responsible for an Islamophobic ban on full-face veils
As with other countries in the region, particularly post-communist states like Hungary, Poland
and Croatia, the tide of right wing nationalism and anti-immigrant rhetoric has been an effective
tool for some leaders.
By comparison, countries like France and Germany have elected immigrant friendly leaders, creating
a stark divide throughout Europe on how to deal with the influx and resettlement of more
than a million refugees.
Should Kurz combine forces with the extremist Freedom Party, he will lead a parliamentary
right-wing majority, cementing Austria’s place in Europe’s ideological divide.
And as has been seen in countries like Hungary, which has undergone a significant shift to
the right, democratic ideals have been under fire.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been accused of taking power from the legislative
branch, attacking freedom of speech and press, and manipulating the country’s constitutional
court in his own favor.
In short, steps towards dictatorship.
And while Austria is not the only country to see a similar rise of the right, it is
certainly the most recent, with a chancellor who is serving as the youthful face of Europe’s
dramatic political division.
So what exactly is fueling this dramatic rise in right wing nationalism throughout Europe,
and what does the future hold in store?
You can find out by watching this video to the right!
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