Austria Tilts to the Right

The "Respectable Populism" That Brought Kurz and the OVP to Victory

Foreign Minister Sebastan Kurz at an election campaign rally in Vienna, Austria, September 23, 2017. Leonhard Foeger / Reuters

On Sunday, the conservative People's Party (OVP) won the Austrian legislative elections, putting its leader, 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz, on a path to become the country’s youngest chancellor. The OVP secured over 30 percent of the vote, not only defeating the socialist party (SPO) of incumbent Chancellor Christian Kern but, more important, scoring a major victory over the populist right-wing Freedom Party (FPO), which had one of its best results yet. This was no small feat.

Only six months ago, the OVP trailed in third place behind the SPO and the FPO, which was in the lead with 29 percent of the popular vote. (Indeed, throughout 2016, as well as the last six months of 2015, polls indicated that the FPO had a solid lead over the other two parties, which put FPO leader Heinz Christian in pole position to become the next chancellor.) But in May, after Kurz, who had been serving as

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