Austria’s conservative People’s Party (ÖVP), led by 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz, is set to win the country’s general election, projections suggest.
The victory would make Kurz the world’s youngest national leader.
The People’s Party was set to win 31.5%, followed by the Social Democrats with 27.1% and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) with 25.9%.
Short of a majority, Kurz’s party could seek an alliance with the FPÖ, which campaigned against immigration.
Before the election, Kurz served as Europe’s youngest-ever foreign minister, after he was appointed in 2013 aged just 27.
In May 2017 he became the leader of the ÖVP. He began his political career in the youth wing of the party, which he chaired before moving on to serve on Vienna’s city council.
Nicknamed “Wunderwuzzi” (roughly translated – someone who can walk on water), he has been compared to the young leaders of France and Canada, Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau.
Much like Macron, Kurz has created a movement around himself, rebranding the ÖVP – which has been in power for more than 30 years – as “The New People’s Party”.
Immigration was the dominant issue in the run-up to the vote, and Kurz moved his party to the right in the wake of Europe’s 2015 refugee crisis.
He appealed to conservative and right-wing voters with pledges to shut down migrant routes to Europe, cap benefit payments to refugees, and bar immigrants from receiving benefits until they have lived in Austria for five years.
The rightward shift was seen as a response to the success of the FPÖ, which narrowly missed out on the presidency in December when Norbert Hofer was defeated by Alexander Van der Bellen, head of the Greens.
The stance proved popular with Austrian voters after a huge influx of undocumented migrants and refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.
The FPÖ accused Mr Kurz of stealing their policies. Their candidate, Heinz-Christian Strache, has called him an “imposter”.