“I will now leave and pick up my son and my partner from the hospital. “Thursday, December 2, this is how Sebastian Kurz concluded his press conference and ten years of political career as lightning as precocious in Austria. At barely 35 years old, already twice ex-chancellor, the leader of the powerful popular party (ÖVP, conservative) announced his retirement from political life by brandishing the birth of his first child. Having arrived a few days earlier, it would have revealed to him “how many beautiful and important things there are outside of political life”.
Already forced to resign from the Chancellery on October 9, Mr. Kurz also highlighted the “accusations” of corruption which have multiplied against him in recent months. The Austrian anti-corruption prosecution is carrying out two parallel investigations against the resigned conservative leader, suspected both of false testimony in front of Parliament and of having organized a system of phony polls in his favor and financed by the taxpayer. “I look forward to the day when I can prove in court that these accusations are false,” defended Mr. Kurz, who is not yet indicted in these two cases.
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Youngest political retiree
But he also estimated that these cases, which led to searches as far as the Chancellery, “reduced his flame in politics”, while “it takes 100% ardor” to do so. On the other hand, he would have found this “ardor” in paternity. The news of this withdrawal from political life surprised Austria, even if it is impossible to completely rule out a return after such an early withdrawal. Mr. Kurz was just a few months ago the most powerful politician in this country of 8.9 million people. Regularly presented as the Wunderkind (“child prodigy”) of the right, he had climbed all the levels of power at lightning speed: Secretary of State at 24, Minister of Foreign Affairs at 27, Chancellor at 31. At 35 , he is now the youngest political pensioner.
During his ascent, he shamelessly used the ropes of political marketing by multiplying opinion studies and changing beliefs according to their results, as during the refugee crisis of 2015 which had tipped him over to a hard line on immigration. He was then able to ally himself with the far right between 2017 and 2019, as well as with environmentalists since 2020.
Long deeply popular in this predominantly conservative country, he seems to have underestimated how behind-the-scenes revelations of his success could damage his image. Text messages from several of his relatives who have leaked to the press in recent months have shown a calculating and brittle politician, including for his own camp, also in free fall in the polls. Still influential in this federal country, the regional barons of the ÖVP, all older, have gradually distanced themselves.
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