Exit polls: Conservative Sebastian Kurz to be Austrian chancellor

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz and his girlfriend Susanne Thier arrive at a polling station in Vienna on Sunday to cast their votes in the Austrian federal elections. Kurz, 31, is projected to become the nation's next chancellor, according to an exit poll. Photo by Christian Bruna/EPA

Oct. 15 (UPI) — Sebastian Kurz is projected to become Austria’s next chancellor and Europe’s youngest leader at 31, according to an exit poll Sunday.

Polls in the nation of 6.4 million eligible voters closed at 6 p.m. and ballot counting won’t begin until Monday.

Kurz’s People’s Party was leading in 31.7 percent of the 183 parliament seats but because it’s not a majority the party will need to form a coalition with the Freedom Party with 25.9 percent, according to the exit poll.

In May, Kurz pulled his party out of ruling coalition with the Social Democratic Party, which was second in voting Sunday with 27 percent.

The Freedom Party was part of a coalition between 2003 and 2005, the last time a far-right party helped run the government.

The Green Party had only 3.9 percent and the Pilz party, which was started by former Green politician Peter Pilz, was at 4.3 percent and also close to 4 percent cutoff to win a seat in parliament. The Neos, a liberal party, were at 5.1 percent.

“The result is a catastrophe. It is a defeat for the real questions of the future, the existential questions,” Helga Krismer, spokeswoman for the Green Party in Lower Austria, said to The Local in Austria.

The People’s Party and the Freedom Party, which is led by Heinz Christian-Strache, have a hard stance on refugees and immigration.

Kurz, Austria’s foreign minister, in 2015 opposed opening European Union borders to 1 million mostly Muslim asylum seekers and migrants. That year, Austria took in around 90,000 asylum seekers, mainly Syrian Muslims.

The Freedom Party was originally founded by a former Nazi, Anton Reinthaller, in 1956.

Gernot Bluemel, who is a friend of Kurz and a party official in Vienna, said their party will keep any coalition partner in check.

“The crucial point is we are pro-European,” Bluemel said to NPR. “So, we would never accept an anti-European course in the government coalition. We would never accept an anti-Semitic course in government. Never, ever, ever.”

Kurz grew up and still lives in the working-class Vienna neighborhood of Meidling. His mother was a teacher and his father was a manager.

“He was raised with the idea that if you work hard, if you play by the rules, then you can achieve your goals. You can realize your dream,” Bluemel said. “In a country where the level of taxes is being raised higher and higher, this dream is becoming more and more unrealistic.”

Austria is scheduled to take over the European Union presidency next year.

In MayEmmanuel Macron, at 39, was elected the youngest president in France.


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