Kurz set for win in Austria
– Tall, tanned and only 31, Austria’s rising political star, Sebastian Kurz, pictured, oozed confidence as he strode to blaring pop music into Graz’s main square. “October 15 is our chance for change in this country,” Kurz told the recent election rally in Austria’s second city. “And dear friends, to be honest, it is time for change.”
Kurz looks to be on course to become the European Union’s youngest head of government when this wealthy but increasingly disgruntled Alpine country of 8.75 million people votes in a month’s time.
Since becoming head of the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (OeVP) in May, Kurz has re-branded it – in turquoise – as his personal “movement”. Bringing in candidates from outside politics, including a quadriplegic former pole vaulter and an organiser of Viennese balls, Kurz has promised a “new style” and to jumpstart the economy.
Since he took charge, the OeVP has leapfrogged the two other main parties and now has an opinion poll lead of around nine points.
Kurz’s nickname, the tough-totranslate “wunderwuzzi”, means someone who can “walk on water”, political analyst Thomas Hofer said.
Hofer calls him Austria’s most talented politician since Joerg Haider in the 1980s and 90s,
Part of his success has been because Kurz has taken a hard line on immigration, attracting voters away from the far-right who until recently topped the polls.
As integration and foreign minister, Kurz claims credit for closing the Balkan migrant trail in 2016 and wants to cut social security benefits for immigrants, even those from the EU.
“We were right to close the Balkan route and I will fight for the Mediterranean route to be closed too,” he said in Graz, generating the biggest cheer of the evening.
One supporter speaks for many Austrians when asked what her number one concern is. “Asylum-seekers,” she says. – AFP