Austria’s Kurz joins league of young leaders

Sebastian Kurz, the eccentric Austrian politician is to become the chancellor of that country, exciting young people around the globe.

His rise was fast, serving as Foreign Minister at 27 in 2013 before taking over the mantle of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) this year.

At 31, he joins the league of the world’s youngest leaders, including Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The league also includes North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, who at only 34, is working hard at building missiles and a nuclear arsenal.

In Africa, young leaders often came to power through dubious means.

They include Central Africa Republic’s David Dacko, who was provisional president at 30 before becoming a victim of a coup.

In Burundi, Michel Micombero took office in a 1966 coup at just 26.

Liberia’s Samuel Doe became president at 29 while Yahya Jammeh of Gambia overthrew Dawda Jawara in 1994 at 30.

Despite agitation among the youth, Africa has some of the oldest leaders in the world.

They include Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, Paul Biya of Cameroon and Jacob Zuma of South Africa.

So how did Kurz become a leader of a European country at such a young age?

“Kurz is a talented politician who recognised his calling when he stopped studying law. The ÖVP saw potential in him,” German academic Alim Baluch said.

“His strength lies in his ability to anticipate critical questions, interpret them and sell his right-wing position as common sense moderate policies.

“Underestimating him ahead of debates has proved to be a mistake.”

As Foreign Minister, Kurz hosted the talks on the nuclear deal with between the US, China, the UK, France and Russia with Iran; bringing Vienna back on the international diplomatic stage.

At 28, he addressed the UN General Assembly on the subject of globalisation, where he offered the view of the “post-cold war generation that speaks to one another without regard to borders”.

Yet Kurz is also controversial. He led the party into the hands and feelings of those supporting restrictions on migration, lower tax and social media craze.

He gave interviews, saying refugees could strain Austria’s resources.

“These mass refugee movements to Europe cannot work,” he told the Financial Times on November 2016.

With a youthful and conservative constituency in mind, be began by changing the party’s colours from black to turquoise and introduced slogans touching on freshness.

He flies economy and posts videos or selfies with supporters. His tweets attracted about 253,000 followers.

Despite his Eurosceptic campaign views before, Kurz’s election may not tilt Austria’s place in the European Union, which traditionally favours more liberal engagements.

On Thursday, Donald Tusk, the EU Council president, described him as a truly pro-European winner of Austrian elections.

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