Created and presented by: Benedict GomboczPOLITICS OF AUSTRIA
Introduction to Austria’spolitical system The Politics of Austria function in a structure of federal parliamentary representative democratic republic, with Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) as head of government, and Federal President (Bundespräsident) as head of state. Executive power is executed by governments, both local and federal; federal legislative power is exercised both in government and two chambers of parliament, National Council and Federal Council. Political landscape has largely been ruled by conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and center-left Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ). Judiciary is independent of executive and legislature, and exclusively federal in nature; thus, there are no state courts.
Head of State Austria’s head of state is Federal President (Bundespräsident), elected by popular vote for a six-year term and restricted to two consecutive terms in office; current President Heinz Fischer was elected for a second and final six- year term on 25 April 2010. Office of Federal President is in large part formal, but constitution permits president to discharge cabinet or dissolve National Council and call for new elections.
Head of Government Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) is nominated by Federal President. Is head of government, but does not exercise power to administer other members of government. After 2008 legislative election, Social Democratic Party leader Werner Faymann assumed office of Chancellor on 2 December 2008.
Government Federal cabinet is composed of Federal Chancellor who is nominated by president and several ministers nominated by president on suggestion of chancellor. Federal cabinet is accountable to National Council and can be made to resign by motion of no confidence. Current cabinet, consisting of Social Democratic Party and Austrian People’s Party, assumed office on 2 December 2008.
Government of Austria Government (Regierung): Federal Parliamentary republic President (Bundespräsident) : Heinz Fischer Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) : Werner Faymann (SPÖ) President of the National Council: Barbara Prammer (SPÖ) Legislature: Parliament (Parlament) Upper house: Federal Council (Bundesrat) Lower house: National Council (Nationalrat)
Heinz Fischer Born 9 October 1938 in Graz, in what had recently been annexed to Nazi Germany after March 1938 Anschluss (Annexation). Current President of Austria; assumed office on 8 July 2004 and was re-elected for second and last term on 25 April 2010. Went to Gymnasium, studying humanities; took his Matura exams in 1956. Majored in law at University of Vienna, obtaining doctorate in 1961. Spent a year volunteering at Kibbutz Sarid in northern Israel in 1963 at age 25. Sought academic career, apart from being a politican; became Professor of Political Science at University of Innsbruck in 1993. Member of National Council from 1971; served as Minister of Science from 1983 until 1987 and subsequently as President of National Council of Austria from 1990 until 2002. Formerly member of Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ); discontinued his party membership for second term of his presidency.
Werner Fayman Born 4 May 1960 in Vienna. Current Chancellor of Austria and chairman of Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ). Majored in law at University of Vienna for two years, but never graduated. Consultant at Zentralsparkasee Bank (now Bank Austria) from 1985-1988, which he left to be director and provincial chairman of Viennese Tenants’ counseling. Also served as provincial chairman of Socialist Youth Vienna (Sozialistische Jugend Wien) from 1985- 1994, becoming member of Viennese state parliament and municipal council, where he held different posts relating to housing concentration and urban renewal. Was Federal Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology in cabinet of Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer. Succeeded Gusenbauer as chairman of Social Democratic Party and subsequently led the party in ensuing legislative election held on 28 September 2008.
Barbara Prammer Born 11 January 1954 in Ottnang am Hausruck. Politican for Social Democratic Party. President of National Council of Austria since 30 October 2006; served as its VP from 2004-2006. Served as Federal Minister for Women Affairs and Consumer Protection from 1997-2000; was subsequently elected to National Council in 1999. Is married and has two children.
Parliament of Austria Comprised of two chambers. National Council (Nationalrat) has 183 members, elected to term of five years by proportional representation. Prevalent of legislature’s two chambers. A party needs to gather at least four percent of votes across the country or obtain a seat (Direktmandat) in one of 43 regional constituencies. Politically much less important Federal Council (Bundesrat) currently is made up of 62 members; they are elected by state legislators (Landtage). Number and division of seats is recalculated after every census. Power of Federal Council is to some extent restricted; in most cases, it only has suspensive veto, which can be rejected by National Council. In some cases, nevertheless, such as laws restricting competences of provinces, approval of Federal Council is mandatory.
Parliament of Austria –cont. Federal Assembly (Bundesversammlung), which is shaped by National Council and Federal Council in joint session, is in large part ceremonial institution; its principal liability is swearing in of Federal President. Can also call referendum on removing president from office or bringing president before Constitutional Court if it closes that president infringes constitution; is liable for declaring war. Had to surrender some of its power to European Union institutions after Austria’s accession to European Union in 1995. Austrian Convention (Österreich Konvent) was established in 2003 to recommend motions for reform of Austrian constitution and principal institutions; offered a report in 2007, with some of its suggestions adopted by parliament.
Parties represented in National Council Social Democratic Party of Austria (Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs, SPÖ) Austrian People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) Freedom Party of Austria (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ)* The Freedomites in Carinthia (Die Freiheitlichen in Kärnten, FPK) * Alliance for the Future of Austria (Bündnis Zukunft Österreich, BZÖ) The Greens – The Green Alternative (Die Grünen – Die Grüne Alternative, GRÜNE) Citizens’ Forum Austria (Bürgerforum Österreich, FRITZ) Hans-Peter Martin’s List (Liste Hans-Peter Martin, HPM) *Ordinary FPÖ/FPK group in Nationalrat; FPK runs in Carinthia only, FPÖ elsewhere.
Parties represented in state parliaments Communist Party of Austria (Kommunistische Partei Österreichs, KPÖ) List Burgenland (Liste Burgenland, LBL)
Minor parties Animal Rights Party (Tierrechtspartei, TRP) Black-Yellow Alliance (Schwarz-Gelbe Allianz, SGA) Christian Electoral Community (Christliche Wählergemeinschaft, CWG) Christian Party of Austria (Christliche Partei Österreichs, CPÖ) Communist Initiative (Kommunistische Initiative, KI) Enotna Lista (Unity List, EL) Left (Linke, LINKE) Liberal Forum (Liberales Forum, LiF) Neutral Free Austria (Neutrales Freies Österreich, NFÖ) Pirate Party of Austria (Piratenpartei Österreichs, PPÖ) Save Austria (Rettet Österreich, RETTÖ) Socialist Left Party (Sozialistische LinksPartei, SLP) The Social Liberals (Die Sozialliberalen, SoL) Young Liberals Austria (Junge Liberale Österreich, JuLis)
Social Democratic Party of Austria Center-left and social democratic political party and one of the oldest Austrian political parties. Founded 30 December 1888 (as SDAPÖ). One of two important parties in Austria; has ties to trade unions (ÖGB) and Austrian Chamber of Labour. Among few mainstream European social- democratic parties that have maintained their socialist sources and rejected neo- liberalism. Currently governs Austria as senior partner in coalition with second-largest party, the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), with SPÖ leader Werner Faymann currently serving as Chancellor of Austria. Member of Socialist International and Party of European Socialists.
Austrian People’s Party Christian democratic and conservative political party. Successor to Christian Social Party of late 19th and early 20th centuries; similar to Christian Democratic Union of Germany in terms of ideology. Founded on 17 April 1945, immediately after re-establishment of Federal Republic of Austria; has since been one of Austria’s two important parties, together with larger Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ). Currently junior partner in coalition government with SPÖ, in federal governance, with ÖVP party leader Michael Spindelegger as current Vice-Chancellor of Austria.
Landeshauptmann German for “state captain”; plural Landeshauptmänner or Landeshauptleute; female form is Landeshauptfrau is ex-German gubernatorial name equal to that of governor of province or state. Originally alluded to governor of principality or province in Holy Roman Empire and Austrian Empire; remains in use in modern Austria and in South Tyrol (Südtirol in German), autonomous province in neighboring Italy with significant linguistic and cultural ties to neighboring Austrian state Tyrol (Tirol in German). In the Czech Republic, hejtman (hauptmann in German) depicts all of the 13 self-governing regions (Czech: kraj; pl. kraje). Also used by German Empire for governors during early periods of rule over South West Africa from 1893- 1898, Togoland from 1893-1898 and German New Guinea from 1886-1889 and 1892-1899. In present-day Austria, Landeshauptmanni s used for head of executive of nine Austrian states, equal to post of Minister-President in Germany’s 16 states. Landeshauptmann is elected by Landtag, state parliament of respective state. Female equivalent of this name is Landeshauptfrau; upon election of Waltraud Klasnic (ÖVP) as state governor of Styria in 1996, she preferred being spoken to as Frau Landeshauptmann, while Gabi Burgstaller (SPÖ), state governor of Salzburg since 2004, prefers being addressed as Frau Landeshauptfrau. Since 1 July 1988, Constitution of Austria permits, but does not order, office positions to be gender- specific.