Austria elects world’s youngest leader as Conservatives take power

DCNFJacob Bojesson, DCNF

Austria’s conservative People’s Party won the general election Sunday and looks set to form a coalition with the populist Freedom Party.

Sebastian Kurz (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

The party, led by 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz, was the clear winner at 31.6 percent after more than 99 percent of the votes were counted. It’s still unclear which party will finish second with both the Freedom Party and the Social Democrats standing close to 27 percent of the votes.

“It is time for change in this country,” Kurz said in his victory speech. “Today is a strong order for us, to change this country, and I say thank you to you all who made this possible. I’m overwhelmed, I am happy, and I look forward to working for Austria.”

Kurz, who has served as the foreign minister since 2013, will become the world’s youngest national leader, according to BBC. He has played an integral part in designing a new set of integration laws in Austria, including a ban on the burqa and mandatory language classes for migrants.

Kurz may pick the Freedom Party as his coalition partners as both parties have focused on a cut in immigration during their campaigns.

“I hope that many [in the European parliament] will understand that the topics we are running with have strong support among the population,” said Harald Vilimsky, a Freedom Party member of the European Parliament, told Reuters.

President Alexander Van der Bellen, who is affiliated with the Greens, would have to approve the new government. A constitutional crisis could emerge if he refuses to allow the Freedom Party to take part in the government formation.

The Freedom Party’s success follows similar gains for Germany’s populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) in last months election. AfD finished third and made parliament for the first time.

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