Game for throne: Sebastian Kurz, 31, beats odds

Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs and the chairman of Austria's People's Party (OeVP), Sebastian Kurz greets his supporters as he is leaving for his 36 hours rally tour in Vienna Austria on Oct 13, 2017.
Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs and the chairman of Austria's People's Party (OeVP), Sebastian Kurz greets his supporters as he is leaving for his 36 hours rally tour in Vienna Austria on Oct 13, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

VIENNA • "Whizz-kid", "Basti Fantasti", "Messiah" - these are just some of the monikers given to the fresh-faced wonder boy who became the Austrian People's Party boss in May.

The takeover by Mr Sebastian Kurz, or "Emperor Kurz", proved radical. First he ended the decade-long unhappy coalition with the Socialists. Then he rebranded the People's Party and its black party colour as a turquoise "movement" tough on immigration and Islam.

The "putting Austrians first" strategy has propelled the sluggish People's Party to pole position in opinion polls, leaving the scandal-plagued Social Democratic Party of Chancellor Christian Kern fighting for second place with the Freedom Party.

Mr Kurz gets a rock star welcome on the campaign trail. Fans in turquoise T-shirts chant his name, women ask if they can hug him. Selfie sessions with Mr Kurz, in his slim-cut suits and tieless white shirts, last over two hours.

The only child of a secretary and a teacher, Mr Kurz joined the party's youth wing in 2003.

As its chief, he drew ridicule with a 2010 council election campaign featuring the "Black makes you hot" slogan.

Mr Kurz posed with skimpily clad girls on top of a black Hummer, the so-called "hot-o-mobile", and distributed black condoms. This blunder notwithstanding, the former law student enjoyed a meteoric rise, becoming secretary of integration in 2011 and foreign minister two years later, aged just 27.

The notoriously private politician - he is seldom seen in public with long-term girlfriend Susanne - left "nothing to chance" and ran a campaign as immaculate as his trademark gelled-back hair, observed Der Standard newspaper.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 15, 2017, with the headline 'Game for throne: Whizz-kid beats odds'. Print Edition | Subscribe