Who Is the 31-Year-Old Austrian Set to Become World’s Youngest National Leader? PEOPLE Explains
31-year-old conservative Sebastian Kurz is predicted to win Austria’s parliamentary election, which would make him the world’s youngest national leader
Conservative Sebastian Kurz is predicted to win Austria’s parliamentary election — a victory that would subsequently make the 31-year-old the world’s youngest national leader.
According to exit polls, Kurz, the leader of The People’s Party (ÖVP), is set to become the newest chancellor on Sunday, according to the BBC.
Kurz — who was seen with girlfriend Susanne Thier at the polls after voting on Sunday — took control of the ÖVP in May, promising to call for a limit on the number of refugees entering Europe, to cut benefits for EU migrants living in Austria, and to prohibit other foreigners from receiving benefits until they have lived in Austria for five years.
Kurz forced the election to take place, after he refused to continue participating in a coalition with the Social Democrats, led by the incumbent, Chancellor Christian Kern, reported the BBC.
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Dubbed the “Wunderwuzzi” — which, according to CNN, roughly translates to someone who can walk on water —Kurz has earned comparisons to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron.
According to NPR, Kurz grew up in a working-class neighborhood of Vienna, the son of a teacher (his mother) and a manager (his father).
“He’s like a pop star,” Austrian journalist Gernot Bauer told NPR. “He’s like Justin Bieber, it takes hours (and) people want to make selfies with him. I think 20 percent of his campaign was just making photos and selfies.”
Kurz’s ÖVP is expected to form a coalition with the Freedom Party, CNN reported, which has called for a ban on “fascistic Islam” and called for “minus migration.” Should this coalition take place, it will mark the first time a far-right party had been in charge of Austria’s governing coalition in over 10 years.
Austria’s far-right victory has taken place amid increased anxiety in Europe over the influx of migrants and refugees, which has been called the “worst refugee crisis since World War II.” In 2015, Austria opened its borders to welcome migrants — many from the African nations of Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan; Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria in the Middle East; and Albania, and Serbia in Europe.