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Austrian millennial Sebastian Kurz set to become the world's youngest leader

October 17,2017 04:35

Sebastian Kurz is set to become the next chancellor of Austria and, at 31, the world's youngest leader. That's two years younger than North Korea's Kim Jong Un and seven years younger than Ireland's Leo Varadkar. Known as "Wunderwuzzi" (roughly ...



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Silvia Amaro | @Silvia_Amaro

Sebastian Kurz is set to become the next chancellor of Austria and, at 31, the world's youngest leader. That's two years younger than North Korea's Kim Jong Un and seven years younger than Ireland's Leo Varadkar.
Known as "Wunderwuzzi" (roughly translated as "one who can walk on water"), Kurz won Austria's general election Sunday with about 31 percent of the vote.
Foreign minister at age 27, Kurz took over as leader of the center-right People's Party (OVP) in May and quickly rebranded it and introduced a more extremist stance on immigration.
"Mr. Kurz used his personal popularity and his rebranding of the OVP to push the party into first place," Pepijn Bergsen, Austria analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, told CNBC on Monday.

Thomas Kronsteiner | Getty Images
Sebastian Kurz, Austrian Foreign Minister and leader of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (OeVP) speaks at the party's election event.

In recent years, the mainstream partys — the People's Party and the Social Democratic Party — had stopped attracting voters, Bergsen said. "Mr. Kurz has tapped into frustrations around this and around the European migrant crisis by emulating much of the FPO's (far-right) platform," he said.

What has Kurz changed?

Upon becoming leader, Kurz rebranded the conservative party as "the new" People's Party and changed its traditional black color to a more modern blue.
He shifted the party more toward the right, with some accusing him of "stealing" policies from the FPO (Freedom Party), which has links to Nazi movements.
Kurz said Sunday he will wait for the final results, due Oct. 31, before negotiating with other parties and forming a coalition government. Many political commentators expect him to join forces with the Freedom Party, which received about 26-27 percent of the vote, about the same as the Social Democrats.
"This will not be the first time that the FPO has been in power," Bergsen noted.

Joe Klamar | AFP | Getty Images

Where does he come from?

Kurz was born in Vienna and left his law studies to become a politician. He led the youth branch of his party in 2009 and was appointed foreign minister in 2013.
In that role, he supported blocking migrant routes to Europe, a ban on the full face veil and benefit cuts for EU migrants living in Austria.

What a Kurz leadership might mean for Europe?

Thomas Kronsteiner | Getty Images
Sebastian Kurz, Austrian Foreign Minister and leader of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (OeVP) speaks at the party's election event.

"The strong performance of FPO is likely to bring a tough stance on migration to the European debate," Barclays said in a research note Monday.
Bergsen told CNBC that Kurz will actively push for strengthening Europe's outer borders and screening asylum seekers outside the European Union.
"The coalition is likely to push immigration and integration policy further to the right," Bergsen said.
"This is likely to lead to more tensions with other EU members, and Austria is likely to move closer to the Visegrad 4 states (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) within the context of the EU," Bergsen said.
"However, EU membership is not likely to be questioned; Mr. Kurz makes a point of doing his announcements in front of both an Austrian and EU flag."

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