‘Whizz-kid’ seen moving Austria right in election
AUSTRIA is set to move to the right in elections on Sunday with conservative Sebastian Kurz expected to become Europe’s youngest head of government and form a coalition with the anti-immigration Freedom Party.
The centre-right People’s Party (OeVP), rebranded by Kurz, 31, as his personal turquoise “movement”, is forecast to come first with over 30 per cent, polls suggest.
But in a fresh triumph for Europe’s populists just after Alternative for Germany (AfD) became the third-biggest party in parliament there, the Freedom Party (FPOe) looks set to be second or third with at least 25 per cent, double the AfD’s score.
Austria has had almost 150,000 asylum claims since 2015, making the wealthy Alpine country of 8.75 million one of Europe’s highest recipients per capita.
Like the AfD, France’s National Front and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, the FPOe, which almost won the presidency in December, has stoked concerns about the influx, while also moving left on social issues.
“No, Islam is not part of Austria,” party head Heinz-Christian Strache, 48, recently told a rally.
Immigration must stop “until further notice”, its programme says, and asylum is temporary.
“Strache is the counterweight to (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel whose ‘welcome culture’ is destroying Europe,” one FPOe supporter said, not wishing to give his name. “Austrians should come first.”
“Wunderwuzzi” (“whizz-kid”) Kurz took over the OeVP in May and ended its acrimonious “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats.