Austrian Election 2017

Austrian Millennials React to a Millennial Becoming Their Country's Leader

"Sebastian Kurz showed how out of touch he was when he said that the best way to avoid being poor in old age is to buy a house when you're young."
October 17, 2017, 2:16pm
All photos courtesy of VICE Media

This article originally appeared on VICE Austria

On Sunday, the 15th of October 2017, Austria's right-wing People's Party (ÖVP) won the country's parliamentary election with 31 percent of the vote. Though ÖVP failed to win an overall majority, the party are expected to form a coalition government with the far-right, anti-refugee Freedom Party (FPÖ) which won 27 percent of the vote. The victory means that ÖVP's leader, Sebastian Kurz, 31, will become Austria's next chancellor – making him the world's youngest national leader.

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The Vienna born politician has achieved an incredible amount in a very short space of time. Kurz was appointed a Junior Minister at the age of 23, and Europe's youngest ever Foreign Minister at 27. In May 2017, he became the leader of the ÖVP, quickly boosting the party's polling numbers from 20 to 30 percent.

Kurz campaigned on a vague promise of "change", and an even less defined idea of fixing the country's morals. Despite this, many Austrians, bored of the establishment, bought into his vision. So far, his promise to modernise his own party has amounted to very little. For example, he continues to be against gay marriage and supports reducing the amount refugees can receive in benefits. We spoke to a range of young people from different political backgrounds about whether they're excited to see a fellow millennial lead their country, and what they expect from his coalition government.

Flavius, 28

Flavius

"Initially, I was really positive about the idea of Kurz becoming Chancellor. But that enthusiasm quickly vanished as I learned more about his policies. In terms of his values and ideas, I don't consider him a proper millennial. He's far too conservative and old-fashioned in his thinking, especially when it comes to his views on refugees, and gay rights. Kurz showed how out of touch he was when he said that the best way to avoid being poor in old age is to buy a house when you're young. How many young people can really afford to buy a home? It seems like all he cares about is the rich and protecting the interests of large corporations.

I definitely want to see more young people in government. For me, the established political elite are only focused on maintaining their grip on power rather than dealing with the concerns of ordinary people."

Olivia, 25

Olivia

"I feel like the ÖVP just used Kurz to appeal to younger voters. The party's policies haven't changed. He is a typical conservative politician: He only creates policies to help old, white straight men. If you're not part of their favourite demographic, then his government will likely make your life harder."

Julia, 19

Julia

"I quite like Kurz; not because of his age, but because of his policies. They appeal to me a lot more than the far-right FPÖ does – though the two parties have similar views on illegal immigration, which I like.

I do believe that Kurz will breathe a bit of fresh air and excitement into politics in our country. He'll do that just by being so young and passionate, and having a perspective that is different to the majority of career politicians who have been around for decades."

Sarah, 26

"Kurz doesn't represent me, because he does not stand for the values that I stand for. He's just hiding the fact that he's really right-wing behind his very innocent, boyish charm. It doesn't matter if he's 31 or 61, he's still part of the same establishment.

Also, I find it disgusting how cosy he is with the FPÖ. I want more young people in politics who are willing to fight against the status quo and stand up for everyone. We don't need any more perfectly coiffed, well-dressed diplomats – we need revolutionaries."


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Jan, 26

Jan

"I don't think I have anything in common with Kurz. He's a career politician, who comes from an upper-class background. If we met in a bar or on holiday, I don't think we would have anything to say to each other."

Melanie, 18

"He definitely doesn't represent me or my beliefs. For example, I'm a supporter of gay rights, and his party has voted against marriage equality. A lot of people say that he isn't as conservative as the rest of his party, but I've not seen any proof that Kurz is pushing his party to the left. The ÖVP still supports the same anti-immigration policies it always has."

Anna-Maria, 25

Anna-Maria

"I'm a big fan of Kurz – I think he really speaks to my views on society. That's why I'm a member of the ÖVP's youth wing.

Most members of the FPÖ will do anything to push through anti-migrant policies, but Kurz isn't like them. He has great ideas for helping refugees integrate into Austrian society. Also, he will represent our country well abroad – he is diplomatic, but tough when he needs to be."

Clara, 25

Clara

"Kurz's views on gay marriage and refugees makes it very difficult for me to support him. He campaigned so strongly on just those two issues, that I don't really know what else he believes in."

Sandro, 22

Sandro

"I must admit that Kurz presents himself well and is a very effective speaker. I just have very different opinions on most things. For example, I'm against his proposals to cut inheritance tax for the wealthy. However, I do agree agree with his views on immigration, which are different from the FPÖ's. He isn't saying that we shouldn't let any refugees in, he's just saying we shouldn't let every refugee in."

Janette, 25

Janette

"It's actually a shame that a millennial whose views are so different from those of most young people gets to be in such a powerful position. Kurz could bring loads of new ideas into politics, but, sadly, he won't."

Pedram, 27

Pedram

"I actually think he's pretty cool. But I can't support the right-wing views that he has developed in the last two years, such as switching from a relatively tolerant stance on refugees to talking about a complete ban on migrants within 18 months."

Lisa, 27

Lisa

"Kurz hasn't developed any plans to tackle education or other essential aspects of our generations' lives, such as growing small businesses and developing startups. He doesn't really speak about things that are relevant to millennials. And when he does, his ideas only resonate with rich kids."