Austria: what remains of the Kurz era?
A hard landing for the former posterboy of the European conservatives: Austria's ex-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has announced his resignation as leader of the ÖVP and withdrawal from politics. In October he was forced to step down as chancellor due to corruption investigations. Since then the 35-year-old has come under growing pressure also from within his own party. Europe's press takes stock of an era that ended when it was still young.
Beware of wonder boys
The rise and fall of Sebastian Kurz should be a lesson to conservative parties in Europe, writes the Frankfurter Rundschau:
“They courted Kurz for far too long, seeing in him a new type of conservative politician. The supposed superstar from Vienna also had many supporters in the CDU and CSU. In the process, they preferred to overlook the fact that Kurz lacks moral strength. Better advance warning systems are needed for the future. The next 'wonder boy' is already waiting somewhere in the wings.”
Ultimately a populist
Nothing remains of Kurz's promise of renewal, notes Falter:
“Kurz's rise and fall should be a warning to all parties of what happens when conservative parties subordinate themselves to a right-wing populist leader. Kurz's downfall also highlights how corrupt Austria's political system is. ... This is most evident in Austria's political-media system, with its unhealthy proximity between politicians, media owners and their journalists, lubricated by unusually high volumes of public advertising money. ... On top of all this there's Austria's disastrous pandemic management, for which Sebastian Kurz is to blame. From the start he declared that he would take care of fighting the pandemic. ... Now the country is paying the price.”
He changed Europe's migration policy
Lidové noviny looks back on Kurz's career and in particular his stance on refugees:
“Kurz made the fight against illegal migration the top issue in his party's election campaigns, thus wresting many voters away from the FPÖ. While he was still foreign minister he closed the border in order to block the so-called Balkan route. He also pushed through this course in the EU, where he became one of the most vocal critics of Chancellor Angela Merkel. And finally, in the negotiations on the EU budget for the next seven years, he led the group of countries that prevented higher national payments for the Union's budget.”
Common practice in Slovenia
The same case would have caused less of a stir in Austria's neighbour to the south, news website Portal Plus notes:
“For politicians, especially those in power, public opinion is the holy grail, an aphrodisiac, almost as intoxicating as power and authority. It's a high of a special kind for which they will do (almost) anything. ... There is no politician who's not tempted to manipulate public opinion. And Kurz was certainly no exception. In Austria they've made a big scandal out of it, one the judiciary will be dealing with for some time to come. In Slovenia, however, funneling money from state-owned and semi-state-owned companies into election campaigns has been common practice for thirty years.”