Regardless of what you think of the “New ÖVP,” the hype around its leader Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s millennial foreign minister and likely new chancellor, is getting out of hand
Naturally, that’s as the ÖVP planned it – their entire campaign revolved around young, fresh Kurz, promising change, ending the deadlock within the government that has hobbled Austria for years.
Change? The ÖVP last graced the opposition bench back in 1986. Since then, it has been part of the government, longer than any other party. Kurz himself entered the cabinet in 2011 as secretary for integration, and was complicit in creating the state of affairs he then decried during the election – a point the FPÖ gleefully brought up during their campaign.
The fever pitch may result in backlash – not unlike the impossible expectations facing Barack Obama (Yes We Can!) back in 2009; even successes drew resentment for not doing enough.
It’s far too early to condemn Kurz. He did retool a stagnant party in record time, and while his signature achievement – closing the “Western Balkans route” – will always remain controversial, he showed more initiative than any other Austrian, or even European, politician. But anyone who thinks that a single person can clean up a political culture entrenched since 1945 – and a bureaucracy that remains largely unchanged since imperial times – is poised for disappointment.
It will take more than a new paint job to whitewash that.