BERLIN — When Sebastian Kurz first became chancellor of Austria the whole of Europe sat up. Only 31, he had turned around the fortunes of his ailing conservative party and almost overnight become a role model for struggling center-right leaders elsewhere on the Continent.
Four years later, Mr. Kurz has been forced to resign amid a criminal investigation into allegations that he used public money to manipulate opinion polls and that he paid off a tabloid newspaper for favorable coverage.
His downfall is unique to Austria but it could reverberate far across Europe.
It comes at a time when Europe’s political landscape looks ever more fragmented and the once-mighty traditional parties of the center-left and center-right have lost ground to a host of new political actors, not least on the extremes.
Youthful and media-savvy, Mr. Kurz styled himself as someone who had a formula for how to preserve a capacious center amid the disruption. He adopted the anti-immigrant language of an ascendant far right and refashioned his traditionally staid People’s Party into a political movement that attracted hundreds of thousands of new supporters.
“Why don’t we have someone like that?” lamented the German tabloid Bild in October 2017.
But the recent allegations against him and a trove of evidence that has already been released suggest that the very communication strategy that won him conservative votes at home and admiration in conservative circles abroad was at best “deeply immoral” and at worst illegal, said Thomas Hofer, a longtime observer of European politics and an independent political consultant in Vienna.
“What we’re seeing in Austria is the collapse of a new narrative for conservative parties in Europe,” said Mr. Hofer. “Internationally, the
Posts from the same category:
- None Found