The Coronavirus Crisis Reveals Kurz’s ‘Authoritarian Tendencies’
Mainstream news sources across Europe are starting to worry that Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz may be bringing authoritarian-style rule into the heart of Europe. “Under his leadership, Austria got through the first phase of the pandemic very well,” the conservative-liberal Swiss paper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (nzz) wrote on May 9. “But at the same time, the authoritarian features of the young chancellor became apparent” (Trumpet translation throughout).
Kurz is the world’s youngest head of state; but in the coronavirus crisis, he presented himself as the most experienced leader. While other heads of state around the world pulled a team of experts to their side, Kurz acted as Austria’s sole authority. He did not coordinate his actions with other leaders in the European Union. He instead marketed himself as the leader the rest of Europe followed.
“The first into [the lockdown] and the first out of it—this is what the coronavirus managers’ directorial book looks like at Vienna’s Ballhausplatz, where the Austrian chancellor is in office,” nzz noted. “Sebastian Kurz and his conservative green government want to steer their country through the pandemic faster, better, smarter than the others in Europe.”
Kurz: Austria’s Sole Ruler
On March 10, Kurz announced border closures and a far-reaching curfew; other European countries quickly followed suit. Four weeks later, the Austrians were among the first to carefully open stores again. The total death count didn’t reach the anticipated tens of thousands; instead the number currently stands at 615 with 1,290 sick. As nzz noted, “The feared mass extinction had failed to materialize.” It continued:
But the management of the coronavirus crisis also revealed some of the characteristics of the 33-year-old politician, and confirmed others. Epidemiological figures are one thing, political style and decisions are another. The Austrians have been largely spared from the lung disease for the time being. But they also became minor roles in the staging of their skillful young chancellor.
In the crisis, Sebastian Kurz revealed more of his nature. “Look at you, look at me” was the government’s motto, to persuade the citizens to keep their distance and to refrain from leaving the house; to fit the chancellor, the motto was: “Look at me, I’m the boss.”
Everything in the coronavirus crisis started to revolve around one man: Austria’s chancellor. nzz called Kurz “the crisis lover,” adding that as the nation fought “against the spread of the virus, the chancellor pulled out the stops of his media skills. … The search for a chief virologist, a national coronavirus doctor at his side, who would explain to the citizens how the epidemic is now proceeding and how it should be contained, was unsuccessful. Kurz is the sole crisis manager, and fear was his preferred disciplinary tool.”
Kurz has never been a team player. He skillfully manipulated his rise to power in an early election in 2017, based on his personal popularity. In the beginning of the year the Social Democratic Party of Austria (spö) was leading the nation in a grand coalition with the Austrian People’s Party (övp). Christian Kern was Austria’s chancellor and Reinhold Mitterlehner was the leader of the övp. At the time, Kurz was only a junior member of the övp. Mitterlehner was forced to resign in an internal power struggle. Kurz took the leadership of the övp, who had to accept him with additional powers, and then demanded new elections.
Before Kurz’s ascent to power in 2017, the övp polled below 20 percent and was fading into insignificance. The polls showed the party far behind the spö and the far-right Freedom Party (fpö), which was nearing 30 percent.
Kurz ended his party’s crisis and led it to an election victory. Ever since, the övp has been a one-man show. Then Kurz entered into a controversial coalition with the fpö.
After a scandal video involving the fpö’s top leadership was published in 2019, Kurz took quick action, ending the coalition, forming a minority government, and calling for new elections. Though parliament passed a bill of no-confidence against him, Kurz was reelected after a short break with an astonishing 37.5 percent support.
But the coronavirus crisis put Kurz’s prior success to the pale; the “success of Kurz’s övp is historical,” nzz noted. “The People’s Party has risen to 45 percent; [the party] last won that much in elections in 1970. The position of the övp is now more dominant than ever, because no other party is within its reach.” Kurz forms Austrian politics with little regard to his coalition partners. As nzz said, the “Greens are pressed against the wall.”
Within three years, the övp has changed dramatically to the sole credit of Sebastian Kurz.
“Austria has massively restricted civil liberties due to coronavirus,” Zeit Online wrote. “This is understandable in this situation, but it is also dangerous” (March 16). Such one-man rule in Austria has been unheard of since World War ii. In fact, today’s democratic system was set up to prevent its occurrence.
What if this trend is reversed?
In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler explained why he thought Austria’s democracy prior to World War ii was a failure. He believed that neither the people, brainwashed by the press, nor the politicians, selected by an under-educated citizenship, knew what was good for their country. Hitler believed that at times only very few knew what would be best for the country. In some cases, he believed, only one person knows what is best for everyone. Democracy hinders great politicians from acting decisively, in his opinion.
Eventually, Hitler used propaganda to get elected. But he governed by one-man rule. Hitler repeatedly made decisions against the counsel of advisers because he believed only he knew what was best. For a long time, Hitler was celebrated for his governance in Germany, Austria and across Europe. But his authoritarian rule eventually turned bloody, as is often the case.
People today know this history, as does Kurz. But he is evidently not a fan of separation of power, which is in place to keep history from repeating itself. Certainly Kurz hasn’t committed the crimes Hitler did, but the dangers of one-man rule, when they remain unrestrained, are the same.
It is even more alarming when one understands how Kurz actively works to shape public opinion.
Fear—a Political Tool
“Did Kurz Scare Austria?” n-tv.de asked on April 28. “Sebastian Kurz and his people have their Machiavelli on the shelf, said someone who would know, namely his Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler. The Italian philosopher Machiavelli is still famous for his essay ‘The Prince’ about the qualities of rulers. One of the core sentences: ‘The end justifies the means.’”
Kurz said at the beginning of April that without the exit restrictions from mid-March, Austria would have had 100,000 deaths. “Soon each of us will know someone who died of coronavirus,” he claimed. Many experts have been proved wrong in the coronavirus crisis, but in the case of Kurz’s warning, it is not even clear if experts presented the estimation. The referenced study has only been made public in summary.
“Revelations raise uncomfortable questions,” n-TV wrote. “Did the government deliberately stir up fear among the population in order to discipline them? Did it intentionally leave people in the dark about what is allowed and what is not?”
The orf radio station Ö1 reported on a protocol reflecting a meeting of the coronavirus task force at the Health Ministry on March 12. The transcript reveals that Kurz was aware the population was not very concerned about the virus at that time. Kurz didn’t like this fact. The protocol literally read: “Kurz clarifies that people should be afraid of infection or afraid that parents/grandparents will die.”
Following the meeting, his government made sure the population was afraid. Consequently, Austrians followed Kurz’s new measures.
“But the protocol is not the only indication that the government has relied on a strategy of fear in recent weeks,” n-TV noted. “Time and again different rules were communicated than the regulations provided. When Chancellor Kurz announced the lockdown on March 13, he only gave three reasons to leave the house: work, urgent errands, assistance for third parties. Everyone naturally thought that any reason outside these were strictly forbidden.
“Starting today, very strict laws apply in Austria,” an Austrian citizen wrote the Trumpet on March 16. “There is an absolute ban on assemblies and only people who actually live together can be together. You can’t even visit parents or friends if you don’t live in the same house with them. We are currently prisoners in our own country. These quarantine laws are closely monitored by the police.”
Days later, media reports clarified that walking and sports were also allowed. But it wasn’t until weeks later, on day 43 of the exit restrictions, that citizens were allowed to visit relatives and friends.
Kurz’s government knew exactly what it was doing. It knew that enforcing a lockdown the way it did was impossible according to Austrian law. Thus it deceived the public.
Perhaps by doing so, Kurz saved a handful of lives; but he also restricted the private lives of millions in a very dubious manner.
Kurz showed similar tendencies in his previous term, but the coronavirus crisis has made them more clear than ever. For the sake of saving lives, the opposition dared not oppose Kurz, and the media also endorsed his actions, perhaps partly because tabloids and private broadcasters receive the greatest portion of aid during the crisis, totaling €32 million.
For a long time, the only opposition to Kurz’s draconian measures came from lawyers. The Constitutional Court (VfGH) has filed 30 complaints against the coronavirus measures, the Standard noted at the end of April. Some of them complained about the carelessness in the regulations. Allegations that Kurz nonchalantly brushed aside at the beginning of April as “legal subtleties.”
Kurz hurried through more than 140 ordinances and decrees, curtailing the freedom of citizens. State lawyers criticized “both the extensive encroachment on fundamental rights and the confused provisions,” nzz remarked. “The chancellor knocked these objections back.”
Kurz promised that “the Constitutional Court will decide” whether everything he ordered was lawful. But by then, he added, the measures will no longer be in force anyway. Strict adherence to constitutional law is obviously not a priority; he will have no great regrets if parts of his laws are struck down.
Toward the end of the lockdown, opposition against Kurz grew. But he acted quickly and is leading Austria out of the lockdown faster than any other European country. Given the small number of deaths and the easing of the restrictions, all the criticism against him seems to no longer matter.
But what about the next crisis? Barriers have already been broken down.
Dictators Are Prophesied to Rise
“The Bible says 10 kings will rise in Europe in this end time, led by one overarching strongman. These kings will form the Holy Roman Empire,” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in the July 2020 Trumpet magazine. “The coronavirus pandemic is helping usher in these 10 kings!”
Mr. Flurry was referring to the prophecy found in Revelation 17: “And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast” (verses 12-13).
As Mr. Flurry explained, this prophecy is for our time, and we are in the process of seeing its fulfillment. Verses 1-2 show that these kings will be in an alliance with the Roman Catholic Church, symbolized by a woman. Notice who Kurz’s main supporter in the recent crisis was, as explained by Mr. Flurry:
Austria was the first European country to go into coronavirus lockdown. For doing so, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz received much praise from the Roman Catholic Church, Europe’s oldest institution. “I am very grateful that the government is wise and is taking steps to create trust,” said the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, in a zib 2 special. Catholic leaders backed each severe step Kurz took.
Kurz applauded the church for its support. “Especially in times of crisis,” he said, “the church offers people support and provides important help.”
Chancellor Kurz seeks regular counsel from the Catholic Church, which guides his politics. If you understand history, you will find this troubling. This is exactly what the Holy Roman Empire is: an authoritarian state-church combine.
We are seeing these 10 kings rise in Europe today. If you want to understand where world events are leading, I encourage you to read Mr. Flurry’s article “Coronavirus and the Holy Roman Empire.”