Austria’s ‘Whizz-kid’ forms government with support from right-wing

Sebastian Kurz, 31, will become the world’s youngest leader, while the anti-immigration Freedom Party will become the only far-right party in a Western European government.

world Updated: Dec 16, 2017 16:36 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse, Vienna
Sebastian Kurz,Austria,Freedom Party
Sebastian Kurz (left) and the Freedom Party chairman Heinz-Christian Strache at a press conference in Vienna on December 16, 2017.(AFP)

The heads of Austria’s conservative and far-right parties briefed the president on their new coalition deal on Saturday, following elections that saw the Alpine country swing to the right.

Sebastian Kurz’s People’s Party (OeVP) and the Freedom Party (FPOe) struck the agreement late Friday, setting Kurz up to become chancellor and also the world’s youngest leader at 31.

The parties were due later Saturday to rubber-stamp the accord before a joint press conference by Kurz and FPOe chief Heinz-Christian Strache to outline their programme.

The OeVP came first in the October 15 vote with 31.5% after Kurz, nicknamed “wunderwuzzi” (”whizz-kid”), rebranded the staid party as his own personal “movement”, promising to get tough on immigration and lower taxes.

The anti-immigration FPOe came third with 26% of the vote, double the stunning 13% notched by Alternative for Germany (AfD) in elections the month before.

Kurz and Strache stoked concerns about immigration following a record influx in 2015 and fatigue with the OeVP’s previous “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats (SPOe).

This was mirrored elsewhere, with Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party now the second-largest in the Netherlands, France’s National Front in a runoff for the presidency in May and AfD entering the Bundestag and re-drawing Germany’s political map.

“Our aims are quite clear. We want to ease the tax burden for people, we want to strengthen our economy, which will bolster our social system,” Kurz said late Friday.

“And first and foremost we want to increase security in our country, including by combatting illegal immigration,” Kurz told reporters in a joint news conference with Strache.

Strache, 48, is set to be deputy chancellor and press reports suggest that his party has also secured the interior and defence ministries.

A seasoned diplomat, Karin Kneissl, close to the FPOe but not a member, will be foreign minister, media reports say.

First Published: Dec 16, 2017 16:36 IST