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The Fall of Sebastian Kurz Is a Blow to Europe’s Center-Right

The resignation of the 35-year-old Austrian chancellor amid a corruption probe leaves conservatives without a winning model.


Photographer: Michael Gruber/Getty Images

Sebastian Kurz was hailed as the future of conservatism in Europe when he became the youngest leader on the continent four years ago, at the age of 31. To allies beyond Austria’s borders, his brand of polite populism and youthful overhaul of the stodgy People’s Party seemed to offer a template to securing power. Only weeks ago members of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats were praising Kurz as a model for their own renewal after the party’s historic election defeat in September.

That all changed abruptly when Austrian prosecutors announced a major corruption investigation on Oct. 6. Kurz and his devoted inner circle are alleged to have misappropriated taxpayer money to orchestrate his political rise five years ago, according to a 106-page affidavit seen by Bloomberg News. Three days after being named a suspect, Kurz—who once enjoyed red-carpet treatment from President Donald Trump and has cultivated connections with leading international figures such as Peter Thielresigned as chancellor.