Media Romanticizes Austria's Kurz As Trudeau But He Is More Like Trump

He has been accused of “reaping” his ideas from the country’s far-right party, the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), which was founded by actual Nazis in the 1950s.


Austria has decided.

In this year's general election, the center-right party OVP won with 31.6 percent of the vote. It fell short of a majority so a coalition is expected.

Meanwhile, Sebastian Kurz, the country's 31-year-old foreign minister, is poised to become the probable next chancellor and the world’s youngest leader.

In the mainstream media, Kurz is relentlessly being described as a "fresh-faced" "wunderkind." In fact, according to France 24, the young leader has gained a nickname, "Wunderwuzzi," which can be roughly translated to "wonder/whiz kid."

Granted, Kurz, who started out in politics as a teenager, has achieved more than most quite early in his career. He became not only the country's or Europe's but the world's youngest foreign minister in 2013. This election season, he was widely credited with turning around his ailing conservative party's fortunes as it just won 61 of the National Council's 183 available seats.

"The keen windsurfer and hiker has rebranded the party as the 'New People’s Party' and changed its color from black to turquoise and drawn in candidates from outside the OVP ranks," Reuters said of Kurz in a recent profile piece.

Many publications have even gone as far as comparing Kurz to other young world leaders such as French President Emmanuelle Macron and especially Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

However, when it comes to core policies, he is not remotely like Trudeau.

A more fitting comparison for Kurz would be U.S. President Donald Trump.

All the media romanticization of Kurz in the wake of his election victory overshadows the fact that Kurz, a lot like Trump, based his entire election campaign on a divisive agenda, fueled by the nationalist right. 

In the wake of 2015's migrant crisis, Austria accepted about 90,000 migrants — 1 percent of the country's population — in a move that prompted widespread concern about jobs and security.

Capitalizing on these concerns, Kurz centered his campaign on stringent immigration. He staunchly opposes social benefits for all newcomers and so, as foreign minister, worked to introduce stricter Balkan border security measures to prevent asylum seekers from entering the country. At one point, he even suggested sending migrants rescued in the Mediterranean back to African shores.

What's more, Kurz is believed to have "reaped" his anti-immigration stance from Austria's far-right party, the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), which was founded by Nazis in the 1950s.

“Kurz has become the FPÖ’s lighter, soft-spoken version,” Anton Pelinka, a professor of nationalism studies at the Central European University, told Haaretz in an interview.

Also, Kurz is expected to form a coalition with the far-right FPO.

(It's a scenario not very different from Trump teaming up with far-right figures such as Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller.)

And it's not just immigration.

As far as the role of Islam is concerned in the Austrian society, Kurz is as Islamophobic as Trump — perhaps even more so.

Even before assuming leadership, Kurz, as foreign minister, pushed through several changes in laws, citing (non-existent) "Islamization" of Austria. He has called for the closure of Muslim kindergartens, helped impose a “burqa ban,” now in effect, as well as a law against foreign funding of mosques.

Kurz may have secured an historic win for himself as well as his party but there is no denying the fact that he was only able to do this by cashing in on the rising far-right political sentiment in Europe in general.

Unlike Kurz, Canada's Trudeau has relatively been welcoming toward migrants and believes in peaceful coexistence with all religions instead of clamping down on them.

Kurz might be a "fresh-faced" "wunderwuzzi," but he is a "fresh-faced" "wunderwuzzi" Austrian Trump — and that can't be good.

Banner/Thumbnail: Reuters

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