Sebastian Kurz, the 31-year-old head of the right-leaning People’s Party and outgoing foreign minister, is set to become the world’s youngest leader after his party declared victory in today’s general election.
Politico Europe reports it could take days for a definitive second-place winner to shake out, as Austria prepares to tally 900,000 mail-in ballots on Thursday (Oct. 19). But multiple projections show the People’s Party finishing significantly ahead of the rest of the pack; the counting is more of a matter of figuring out whether the far-right Freedom Party or the centrist Social Democrats will place second.
A People’s Party win signifies a substantial shift in national politics in Austria, after more than a decade under the leadership of a centrist coalition government. As foreign minister, Kurz shuttered migrant routes, capped benefits to refugees, and barred foreigners from receiving benefits unless they’ve lived in Austria for at least five years. His hard line on immigration earned him admirers from far-right politicians in other countries.
It was Kurz who called for the snap election that could install him as chancellor; the People’s Party kept the issue of immigration front and center throughout the election.
Kurz is younger than all European leaders currently in power, and will enter office at a youthful age that is fairly unprecedented historically. Austria’s previous youngest chancellor was Kurt Schuschnigg, who was 36 when he took office in 1934. The UK hasn’t had a prime minister younger than 40 since 1732. At 39, Emmanuel Macron is the youngest French president in history.
Correction: A previous version of this article inaccurately described a Marine Le Pen tweet as congratulating the People’s Party. In fact, Le Pen’s tweet expressed support for the far-right Freedom Party. It also incorrectly stated that Kurt Schuschnigg became Austrian chancellor in 1897. In fact, Schuschnigg was born in 1897; he took office in 1934.