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Armenia - GOVERNMENT
AUSTRIA'S POLITICAL SYSTEM has been a model of stability since democracy was restored in 1945. In contrast to the interwar period, when domestic political rivalries and foreign intervention brought the system of government set out by the constitution of 1920 to a standstill, after World War II this reestablished parliamentary democracy functioned smoothly in what came to be termed the Second Republic.
For most of the postwar period, Austrian politics appeared unique in many respects to outside observers. Between 1945 and 1966, the country was ruled by the so-called grand coalition of the two major parties, the Austrian People's Party (Österreichische Volkspartei--ÖVP) and the Socialist Party of Austria (Sozialistische Partei Österreichs--SPÖ). (In 1991 the name of the latter party was changed to the Social Democratic Party of Austria [Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs--SPÖ].) This arrangement appealed to Austria's politicians and people mainly because it symbolized the reconciliation between social groups that had fought a brief civil war before the absorption (Anschluss) of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938. The coregency of the ÖVP and SPÖ led to the systematic dividing of political offices and civil service posts, known in Austria as Proporz. Also benefiting from this arrangement were key economic and professional organizations that were aligned with the two major parties.
At times, Austria's political system seemed impervious to change, but by the middle of the 1980s, it had become clear that far-reaching social and economic trends were beginning to affect the country's politics. The dominance of the ÖVP and SPÖ was challenged by the reemergence of the Freedom Party of Austria (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs--FPÖ), led by Jörg Haider, a young right-wing populist who appealed to German nationalist sentiment. After the FPÖ's short-lived coalition with the SPÖ between 1983 and 1986, it continued to attract increasing numbers of voters. In the national election of 1990, the FPÖ won 16.6 percent of the vote, establishing itself as a new power in the Nationalrat. In early 1993, however, some members of the FPÖ withdrew from it and formed their own party, The Liberal Forum (Das Liberale Forum), a potential threat to Haider's political future. Concern over environmental issues has also affected the Austrian political process, as evidenced by the entry of Green political parties into parliament in 1986. Previous patterns of government, which revolved almost exclusively around reaching agreement between the ÖVP and the SPÖ, were replaced by a more contentious, freewheeling atmosphere where more voices are heard.
While the political process underwent gradual but distinct changes, a variety of scandals during the 1980s brought Austria to the world's attention. The best-known involved Kurt Waldheim, elected president in 1986. Shortly after his election, a sharp international controversy erupted over whether he had been involved in Nazi atrocities in Yugoslavia during World War II. Although a thorough investigation found no evidence that Waldheim had participated in any atrocities, his method of handling the affair disappointed many Austrians and foreign observers. The strong emotions unleashed inside Austria by this matter showed that the older generation is still reluctant to discuss the country's role in the Nazi era.
Major changes in Austria's political landscape opened prospects of a new basis for its foreign policy. The bedrock of Austrian diplomacy in the postwar period has been its commitment to permanent neutrality. In order to achieve the removal of Soviet occupying forces, the Austrian government in 1955 pledged never to join a military alliance or to permit the stationing of foreign troops on its soil. Thereafter, Austria pursued a policy of active neutrality, which included participation in numerous United Nations peacekeeping operations. During the Cold War period, Austria was a consistent advocate of détente between the United States and the Soviet Union.
By the late 1980s, a growing number of politicians had concluded that the country should examine closely the question of whether or not to join the European Community. After a prolonged debate over the merits of membership, the Austrian government submitted a formal entry application in the summer of 1989. As of late 1993, a substantial number of Austrian citizens still had serious reservations about joining the organization, which as of November 1993 came to be known as the European Union. Membership would have to be approved in a popular referendum. Whatever the outcome of the vote, the disintegration of communism in Eastern Europe and the dissolution of the Soviet Union have raised the question of whether neutrality should--or could--remain the guiding principle of Austrian foreign policy.
Austria is a parliamentary democracy of the kind that exists in most of Western Europe. The legal basis for the Austrian system of government is the constitution of 1920, which was amended in 1929 and several times thereafter. The constitution of 1920 provided a transition from Austria-Hungary (also seen as the Austro-Hungarian Empire) to a democratic federal republic in which the law emanates from the people. The constitution was suspended from 1934 to 1938 during the authoritarian administrations of Engelbert Dollfuss and Kurt von Schuschnigg and again during the Anschluss that was forced on Austria by Adolf Hitler from 1938 to 1945. Since 1945, when the Second Republic was proclaimed, Austria has been governed by the 1920 constitution as amended.
Executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government were established by the 1920 constitution, with the executive branch subordinate to the legislative branch. The federal presidency as established by the 1920 constitution was a weak political office whose incumbent was elected by a joint session of the bicameral legislature, the Bundesversammlung (Federal Assembly). The constitutional amendments of 1929 increased the president's political role by granting him the formal power to appoint or dismiss the chancellor and, on the chancellor's recommendation, the cabinet. The 1929 amendments also provided that the right of electing the president be taken away from the legislature and given to the people.
Austria's political system is federal in nature, reflecting the fact that the country consists of nine provinces. Although Article 15 of the constitution states that the provinces shall have jurisdiction over all matters not explicitly reserved for the federal government, Austrian federalism is weak and underdeveloped. The areas of law reserved for the provinces are few in number and relatively unimportant. Among the areas where the federal government is almost exclusively responsible are foreign affairs, national security, justice, finance, civil and criminal law, police matters, and education. In other areas of law, the provinces are called on to pass implementing legislation for matters already decided at the federal level. This process, known as indirect federal administration, applies to areas such as elections, highway police, and housing affairs. Other laws are made and administered at the provincial level, but within federally established guidelines. These concern social welfare, land reform, and provincial administration. Areas where the provinces have primary authority include municipal affairs (for example, trash removal and major aspects of zoning), preschool and kindergarten, construction laws, fire control, and <>tourism. The constitution does not include a bill of rights as such, but it does guarantee equality before the law and further guarantees that there shall be no discrimination because of birth, gender, civil status, class, or religion. Individual rights are further defined by inclusion in the constitution of the final article, which raises certain older Austrian laws to the rank of constitutional law. Among them is the Basic Law of December 1867, which establishes equality before the law, inviolability of property, and freedom of assembly, expression, and worship. Laws promulgated in 1862 set forth individual rights regarding personal liberty and one's home. These rights include not being held without a warrant and, except in unusual circumstances, not allowing homes to be searched without a warrant.
Some restrictions are placed on freedom of expression and association. Proper authorities must be informed when a new association is formed. Officials then have six weeks to object to its formation if the group is thought to be illegal or a potential threat to the republic. Since the Second Republic was established in 1945, care has been taken to ensure that laws concerning individuals are in accord with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.
Amendments to the constitution can be made through laws designated constitutional laws or through constitutional provisions if the amendment is part of another law. Passage of an amendment requires a two-thirds majority vote in the presence of at least one-half the members of the Nationalrat (National Council), parliament's lower house. Constitutional laws or provisions are accompanied by a national referendum only if requested by one-third of the deputies of either the Nationalrat or the Bundesrat (Federal Council), parliament's upper house. In 1984 a constitutional amendment provided that amendments changing the division of responsibilities between the federal government and the provinces require the approval of two-thirds of the Bundesrat as well as two-thirds of the Nationalrat.
In addition to the amended constitution, two laws--a treaty and a constitutional law--are particularly important to the constitutional development of Austria because they concern the country's international status and reaffirm the people's basic rights. In April 1955, a stalemate over the restoration of full sovereignty to Austria was finally broken when the Soviet Union agreed to drop its insistence that a solution to the Austrian question be tied to the conclusion of a peace treaty with Germany. This paved the way for the signing of the State Treaty in May 1955 by the Four Powers (Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States) and Austria. The treaty established Austria's frontiers as those existing on January 1, 1938, and forbade economic or political union with Germany. Rights to a democratic government and free elections were guaranteed, and the document reiterated guarantees of fundamental rights and freedoms, including equal rights for minorities. Specifically mentioned in this category were Slovenes and Croats. The second law of constitutional importance is the Federal Constitutional Law of October 26, 1955, on the Neutrality of Austria. The law declared the country's permanent neutrality and prohibited it from entering into military alliances or allowing foreign countries to establish military bases within the borders of Austria.
The Austrian system provides for a president who is popularly elected. The president functions as head of state and has little authority over the actions of the government. Political power is in the hand of Austria's head of government, the chancellor (prime minister), who, as in parliamentary systems elsewhere, is usually the leader of the party with the most seat in the lower house of the country's bicameral parliament, the Nationalrat (National Council). The chancellor and his cabinet have extensive executive powers and also are the authors of most legislation. Yet, however great the powers of the executive are, it is politically responsible to the Nationalrat and can only govern with its approval. The upper chamber of parliament, the Bundesrat (Federal Council), represents the interests of Austria's nine provinces. Its limited powers reflect the underdeveloped nature of Austrian federalism. The chancellor and the cabinet, together with their party's representatives in the Nationalrat, are the main center of government activity and power.
<>The Federal President
A 1929 amendment to the 1920 constitution introduced the concept of a popularly elected president. Because of the suspension of the constitution in 1934, however, the first popular election of a president did not take place until 1951. The president serves a six-year term and is limited to two consecutive terms. Candidates must be at least thirty-five years of age and eligible to vote in Nationalrat elections.
Political parties nominate presidential candidates, but it is customary, given the limited powers of the position, for the president to serve in a nonpartisan manner. To win an election, a candidate must receive more than 50 percent of the votes. If no candidate succeeds on the first ballot, a runoff election is held between the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes. The president serves as head of state. Presidential duties include convoking, adjourning, and, in rare cases, dissolving the Nationalrat. The president signs treaties, verifies that legal procedures for legislation have been carried out, and grants reprieves and pardons. Although he cannot veto legislation, the president is empowered to reject a cabinet proposal or delay enactment of a bill. Unless the constitution states otherwise, official acts of the president require the countersignature of the chancellor or the relevant minister.
The president plays an important, though largely formal, role in the political process of forming and dissolving governments. In the aftermath of a parliamentary election, the president invites the leader of the strongest party in the Nationalrat to form a government. This duty reflects the fact that both the government and parliament are responsible to the president in the sense that he can dismiss individual members of the government, including the chancellor, as well as dissolve the Nationalrat. The president, on the recommendation of the chancellor, also appoints individuals to cabinet positions and other important government positions, including that of vice chancellor. The president also can dismiss individual cabinet officials, but only on the recommendation of the chancellor. During the Second Republic (that is, since 1945), the president has dissolved the Nationalrat only twice, in 1971 and 1986, in both cases because the incumbent chancellor and his party wished to have a new election.
The president has emergency authority that gives him significant powers. Should an emergency arise when the Nationalrat is not in session, the cabinet can request that the president act on the basis of "provisional law-amending ordinances," as provided for in the constitution. Such ordinances require the countersignature of the cabinet. Emergency decrees must be sent to the Nationalrat. If it is not in session, the president must convoke a special session. The Nationalrat has four weeks either to enact a law to replace the decree or to void the decree.
Two procedures are outlined in the constitution for pressing charges against the president: one entails a referendum; the other entails a vote by a joint session of parliament, the Bundesversammlung (Federal Assembly). To set a referendum in motion, one-half of the Nationalrat deputies must be present and vote by a two-thirds majority to ask the chancellor to convoke the Bundesversammlung, which then must vote by a simple majority for a referendum. The referendum is carried if a simple majority of voters vote in favor of it. If the referendum is defeated, then the president is regarded as reelected, the Nationalrat is dissolved, and new elections are scheduled. Under no circumstances, however, shall a president serve more than twelve years in office.
The second procedure for bringing charges against the president results from his being responsible to the Bundesversammlung, which is authorized to vote on his actions. Either house of parliament can ask the chancellor to convoke the Bundesversammlung for such a purpose. One-half of the members of each house must be present, and the Bundesversammlung must cast a two-thirds vote to press charges against the president.
If the president dies or if the office is vacated for any other reason, a new election is held. In the interim, the chancellor carries out necessary presidential duties.
The chancellor (prime minister) is the head of government as well as chairman of the cabinet. Executive political power formally rests in the hands of the cabinet. The chancellor, the cabinet, and their working majority in the Nationalrat are the real focal point of executive power in the political system. The chancellor is appointed by the president and can also be dismissed by him. The chancellor is usually the leader of the party that has won the most seats in the latest parliamentary election. At the very least, he or she is the choice of a majority of the new deputies. The chancellor must be eligible to serve in the Nationalrat but need not be a member of it. The chancellor also serves as head of the Federal Chancellery, which is staffed with civil servants.
In most respects, the chancellor functions as first among equals in the cabinet. He coordinates the work of the cabinet but is not entitled to give orders to individual ministers. However, the chancellor's power varies depending on political circumstances and his own political gifts. In a coalition government, the chancellor shares coordinating duties with the vice chancellor, who is the leader of the junior party in the coalition. If the chancellor heads a one-party government, his or her leeway to make decisions is increased. During the long period of rule under Chancellor Bruno Kreisky (1970-83), the public visibility of the chancellor was enhanced through the increased use of television. From the standpoint of the public, the chancellor had become the dominant figure of government.
On recommendation by the chancellor, the president appoints individuals to the various cabinet positions. Cabinet members do not have to be members of the Nationalrat, but they must be eligible to be elected to it. Persons chosen as cabinet ministers are usually leading members of a political party or interest group. Occasionally, however, a person has entered the cabinet from a high-level civil service position.
The number of ministries varies; in 1993 there were fourteen ministries. In a coalition government, the apportionment of the cabinet posts is roughly proportional to the parties' respective strengths in the Nationalrat. The awarding of particular posts is based on a coalition agreement reached between the two parties.
In keeping with the traditional Austrian principle of Proporz (the dividing of political offices according to the respective strengths and interests of the parties), parties name individuals to posts of particular concern to them. For example, if the SPÖ is a member of the coalition, at a minimum it names the minister for labor and social affairs, in keeping with the strong support it enjoys from the trade unions. By the same token, if the ÖVP is part of the coalition, it names the minister for agriculture and forestry because farmers are one of its main interest groups. The chancellor and vice chancellor do not have total control over the selection process for filling cabinet positions. For example, the SPÖ faction in the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund--ÖGB) usually chooses the minister for labor and social affairs, and the ÖVP is careful to allow its various auxiliary associations and provincial parties to make certain selections. Beginning in 1987, the ÖVP and SPÖ have followed a practice of selecting an independent to head the Ministry for Justice.
The cabinet is subject to dismissal by the president and the Nationalrat. The president can dismiss the entire cabinet without the concurrence of the chancellor, but removal of individual members requires the recommendation of the chancellor. If the Nationalrat passes a vote of no confidence--which requires that one-half of the deputies be present--concerning the entire cabinet or a minister, the cabinet or minister is removed from office.
State secretaries are appointed and leave office in the same manner as ministers, but each government ministry does not have a state secretary. State secretaries aid ministers in parliamentary business and are bound by their ministers' instructions. They are nonvoting participants in cabinet sessions. A state secretary is not necessarily a member of the same party as the minister he serves.
The Nationalrat (National Council), the lower house of parliament, exercises all of the powers usually associated with a national legislature. It has the power to remove the entire cabinet or individual members of it by a vote of no confidence. All legislation and treaties must be approved by the Nationalrat. Before a vote can take place, at least one-third of the Nationalrat's members must be present. A simple majority suffices for the passage of legislation. Sessions are public unless the deputies determine otherwise.
Deputies elect a president and second and third presidents from among their members to serve during the four-year legislative term. Party leaders who are members of their party's executive and of a parliamentary faction that serves as a liaison between parliament and a political party are most likely to be presidential candidates. The president and the third president belong to the same party, usually the party holding the most seats in the Nationalrat. The second president belongs to the other major party. Presidential duties include nominating employees of the Federal Chancellery, whose staff serves the three presidents. The three presidents preside over plenary sessions in two-hour shifts. They also join with the chairmen of the parliamentary factions to form the Presidial Conference, which directs the Nationalrat's activities and decides the time and agenda of plenary sessions and, to a lesser extent, the time and agenda of the committees. The Presidial Conference is one of the rare groups not affected by the custom of proportional representation. All parties holding seats in the Nationalrat are represented on the conference.
In 1993 the Nationalrat contained roughly fifteen committees in which legislative proposals are both prepared and examined and the results of parliamentary investigations considered. Each committee has various numbers of subcommittees assigned to deal with specific kinds of legislation. In addition to the committees, there are also the Main Committee and the Permanent Subcommittee, the members of which are elected at the start of each new legislative period. The Main Committee has responsibility for overseeing aspects of the state-run industries and for dispatching Austrian troops on international peacekeeping missions. It also participates in deciding the date for Nationalrat elections and setting rates for postal and telephone services. The president of the Nationalrat serves as chairman of the Main Committee. The Permanent Subcommittee plays a limited role because its main function is to fulfill the duties of the Main Committee in the case of the dissolution of the Nationalrat by the president.
Equally as important as the committees are the Klubs (factions), which all parties in the Nationalrat maintain. The factions usually have a leader and an executive committee, and they provide deputies with a behind-the-scenes setting to discuss political strategy with like-minded colleagues. Individuals elected as deputies to the Nationalrat automatically become members of their party's faction. Faction leaders assign deputies to committees and decide on the questions that are to be asked during debates and the priority for legislative initiatives.
In addition to the work of the committees, another important function of the Nationalrat is to question the government regularly on its activities and legislative proposals. One device frequently employed is an "interpellation," which summons for questioning before the Nationalrat a particular cabinet minister or government official. A minimum of twenty deputies is required to set an interpellation in motion. Questioning a government official is the prelude to a parliamentary debate on the issue.
A 1970 amendment to the election laws increased the number of Nationalrat seats from 165 to 183. Seats in the Nationalrat are divided among the country's nine provinces according to population. Deputies serve a four-year term and are elected according to constitutional and other federal laws. Candidates must be at least twenty years old on January 1 of the election year and must also be eligible to vote.
The Nationalrat has only one session per year, beginning no earlier than September 15 and ending no later than July 15. An extraordinary session of the Nationalrat can be convoked either by order of the federal president, by request of the cabinet, or by request of one-third of the deputies. Once a request has been made, the extraordinary session must commence within two weeks. After a parliamentary election, the newly elected Nationalrat must be convened within thirty days.
The Nationalrat can be dissolved either by presidential action or by itself. The president can dissolve the Nationalrat at the chancellor's request, but he is limited to dismissing it only once for the same reason. New elections must be held soon enough to enable the new parliament to convene within 100 days of the dissolution. The Nationalrat is empowered to dissolve itself by a simple majority vote.
During the Second Republic, membership of the Nationalrat has been heavily weighted toward men who come from white-collar professions. Changes in the sociological profile of the deputies have occurred slowly. The Nationalrat elected in November 1990 contained a record 22 percent of female deputies. Prior to this election, female deputies had never accounted for more than 15 percent of the total number of deputies. The average age of the deputies elected in 1990 was forty-six. Almost 40 percent of the deputies elected in 1990 were university graduates, and 25 percent were employees of political parties, politically oriented interest groups, or social welfare organizations.
The majority of legislative proposals originate in the executive. Legislation occasionally starts in the Nationalrat, but the close cooperation between the executive and the majority party in parliament makes such initiation unnecessary most of the time. During the Second Republic, governmental legislative proposals have outnumbered Nationalrat initiatives by three to one. Parliament's role in the legislative process is focused more on bringing to public attention the background of the government's legislative proposals and exposing any mistakes the government may have made. Opposition parties have the right to force the government to answer any questions about pending legislation.
Before a bill is introduced in parliament, it has already passed through an intensive process of examination. The government solicits comments from the various interest groups affected by the bill, especially the chambers of agriculture, commerce, and labor. During this stage, a bill frequently is modified to meet the objections of key interest groups and opposition parties in parliament. Changes to legislative proposals may also be made after a bill has been introduced in the Nationalrat, but the majority of changes are made before the bill is introduced officially. Bills are amended significantly by the parliament only 10 to 15 percent of the time.
By West European standards, the percentage of bills passed unanimously by the Austrian parliament is high. Unanimity prevailed anywhere between 38 and 49 percent of the time during the parliaments of the 1970s and 1980s. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the advent of the Greens in parliament and the increased power of the FPÖ, unanimity was on the decline.
As the complexity of the issues facing government has increased, so too has the importance of committees to the parliament's work. After a bill reaches the Nationalrat, it is assigned to a committee and frequently also to a subcommittee. Deputies typically spend twice as much time in committee hearings as in plenary sessions. The subcommittees hold even more hours of hearings than the full committees. Because of the unwieldy nature of plenary sessions, 80 percent of changes to government legislation occur in committee.
In 1975 the Nationalrat amended its procedures to give the opposition and smaller parties a greater role in the legislative process. Under the 1975 amendments, one-third of the deputies can request the Constitutional Court to review a law for constitutionality. Further, one-third of the deputies can request the government's accounting agency to conduct an audit of a government agency. These changes reflect the intensification of political competition that occurred in the Nationalrat after the long period of grand coalition governments between the two major parties ended in 1966. The ÖVP, as the major opposition party during the era of SPÖ rule (1970-83), led the drive for greater rights for minority parties.
The interests of Austria's nine provinces are represented at the federal level in the Bundesrat (Federal Council), the upper house of parliament. The Bundesrat has sixty-three seats, which are apportioned among the provinces on the basis of population. Each province is guaranteed at least three seats. As of late 1993, the breakdown of seats was as follows: Vienna and Lower Austria had twelve each; Styria and Upper Austria, ten each; Tirol, five; Carinthia and Salzburg, four each; and Burgenland and Vorarlberg, three each. The members of the Bundesrat are elected by the provincial legislatures on the basis of proportional representation. At least one seat must be given to the party having the second largest number of seats in the provincial legislature. If several parties have the same number of seats, the party that won the second largest number of votes in the last provincial election is awarded a seat in the Bundesrat.
The main purpose of the Bundesrat is to protect provincial interests, but its powers are restricted because the government is not answerable to it. All laws passed by the Nationalrat must be presented to the Bundesrat for review. However, the Bundesrat can at most delay the passage of laws by means of a suspensive veto. In such a case, the bill is sent back to the Nationalrat, which can override the Bundesrat's veto by reapproving the bill. Once this is done, the bill becomes law. In 1984 the body's powers were increased by a constitutional amendment that required approval by two-thirds of the Bundesrat to any proposed constitutional change in the distribution of competencies between the federal government and the provinces. Despite this change, the Bundesrat remains a weak institution.
The two houses of parliament meet jointly as the Bundesversammlung (Federal Assembly) to witness the swearing in of the president, to bring charges against him, or to declare war. Usually, the Bundesversammlung is convoked by the president. If charges are brought against the president, the chancellor convokes the Bundesversammlung. Meetings are chaired alternately by the president of the Nationalrat and the chairman of the Bundesrat. If the Bundesversammlung passes a resolution, its validity must be attested to by the chairman. The chancellor then countersigns and publishes the resolution.
The judicial system is independent of the executive and legislative branches. The constitution establishes that judges are independent when acting in their judicial function. They cannot be bound by instructions from a higher court (except in cases of appeal) or by another agency. In administrative matters, judges are subordinate to the Ministry for Justice. A judge can be transferred or dismissed only for specific reasons established by law and only after formal court action has been taken. The Austrian judiciary functions only at the federal level, and thus there is no separate court system at the provincial level.
The Constitutional Court decides the legality of treaties and the constitutionality of laws and decrees passed at the federal, provincial, and local levels. Cases involving courts and administrative agencies or the Administrative Court and the Constitutional Court are heard in the Constitutional Court. Individuals can present cases to the court if they believe a decision of an administrative agency has violated their constitutional rights. Monetary claims against the state, provinces, administrative districts, or local communities that cannot be settled by a regular court or an administrative agency are brought to the Constitutional Court, as are claims regarding disputed elections. The court also decides questions of impeachment and hears cases charging the president with breaking a constitutional law or cases charging members of federal or provincial governments with breaking a law.
The court is composed of a president, vice president, twelve judges, and six alternates. The federal president, on recommendations from the cabinet, appoints the court's president, vice president, six judges, and three alternates. The federal president appoints six additional judges and three more alternates based on nominations from the Nationalrat (for three judges and two alternates) and the Bundesrat (for three judges and one alternate). The constitution requires that three judges and two alternates of the court, which sits in Vienna, live outside the city. The president of the court chairs its meetings and decides on the assignment of cases to individual judges. He does not have voting rights, however. Cases are heard by five, nine, or all thirteen of the judges and are decided by majority vote.
The selection of judges for the Constitutional Court has been controlled by the ÖVP and the SPÖ. The two parties have applied the principle of Proporz to filling vacancies on the court. Between 1945 and 1970, the ÖVP was the larger of the two parties in terms of parliamentary strength, and it controlled seven of the judgeships with voting rights; the SPÖ controlled six of the judgeships. Beginning in 1970, the ratio was reversed when the SPÖ gained more seats in the parliament than the ÖVP.
The Administrative Court, located in Vienna, is the court of final appeal for cases involving administrative agencies. The court's specific purpose is to determine whether an individual's rights have been violated by an administrative action or omission. Individuals can also appeal to this court if an administrative agency fails to grant a decision in a case. The Administrative Court may not rule on matters that come under the competence of the Constitutional Court.
The Administrative Court is presided over by a court president who is assisted by a vice president and several other court officers. Appointments to the court are made by the federal president on the recommendation of the cabinet. Prerequisites for appointment are completion of law and political science studies and ten years of experience in a related field. At least onethird of the court's members must be qualified judges, and at least one-fourth must come from the provinces, preferably from civil service positions. Panels of three, five, or nine judges sit in court at any one time, depending on the importance of the case.
The system of ordinary courts is headed by the Supreme Court in Vienna. This court is the court of final instance for most civil and criminal cases. It can also hear cases involving commercial, labor, or patent decisions, but constitutional or administrative decisions are outside its purview. Justices hear cases in five-person panels.
Four superior courts, which are appellate courts, are located in Vienna, <"http://worldfacts.us/Austria-Graz.htm">Graz, Linz, and <"http://worldfacts.us/Austria-Innsbruck.htm">Innsbruck. They are usually courts of second instance for civil and criminal cases and are the final appellate courts for district court cases. Usually, a three-judge panel hears cases.
On a lower level are seventeen regional courts having jurisdiction over provincial and district matters. Boundaries of judicial districts may or may not coincide with those of administrative districts. Regional courts serve as courts of first instance for civil and criminal cases carrying penalties of up to ten years' imprisonment and as appellate courts for some cases from district courts. Justices usually sit as a threeperson panel, but some cases can be heard by only one judge. Vienna and Graz have separate courts for civil, criminal, and juvenile cases, and Vienna also has a separate commercial court.
At the lowest level are about 200 district or local courts, which decide minor civil and criminal cases, that is, those involving small monetary value or minor misdemeanors. Questions involving such issues as guardianship, adoption, legitimacy, probate, registry of lands, and boundary disputes are also settled at this level. Depending on the population of the area, the number of judges varies, but one judge can decide a case. Civil and criminal matters are heard in separate courts in Vienna and Graz. Vienna further divides civil courts into one for commercial matters and one for other civil cases.
Ordinary court judges are chosen by the federal president or, if the president so decides, by the minister for justice on the basis of cabinet recommendations. The judiciary retains a potential voice in naming judges, inasmuch as it must submit the names of two candidates for each vacancy on the courts. The suggested candidates, however, need not be chosen by the cabinet. Lay people have an important role in the judicial system in cases involving crimes carrying severe penalties, political felonies, and misdemeanors. The public can participate in court proceedings as lay assessors or as jurors. Certain criminal cases are subject to a hearing by two lay assessors and two judges. The lay assessors and judges decide the guilt or innocence and punishment of a defendant. If a jury, usually eight lay people, is used, the jury decides the guilt of the defendant. Then jury and judges together determine the punishment.
Cases outside the jurisdiction of these courts are heard in special courts. For example, labor courts decide civil cases concerning employment. Employers and employees are represented in labor court hearings. Cases involving the Stock and Commodity Exchange and the Exchange for Agricultural Products are decided by the Court of Arbitration, which is composed of members of the exchanges. Social insurance cases are heard by the provincial commissions for social insurance. The Patent Court decides appeals of patent cases.
The Office of the People's Attorney, which was created in 1977 and granted constitutional recognition in 1981, functions in a manner similar to an ombudsman's office. It is designed to assist citizens who believe that they have been improperly treated by government administration. The office can also initiate its own investigations if it suspects that particular government offices are engaged in corruption or fraud. After concluding its investigations, the office has the authority to issue binding recommendations to government offices to rectify abuses.
Attaining the title of attorney-at-law requires eleven years of training. Four years of this period consist of prescribed studies in law and political science at a university. On completion of a doctoral program, the candidate undergoes a seven-year apprenticeship, during which one year must be spent in a civil or criminal court and three years in an attorney's office. Finally, it is necessary to pass the bar examination.
Civil servants have held a position of respect in Austrian society since the formation of the civil service in the eighteenth century, when it was considered to be "carrying out a mission for the state." The civil service is highly regulated. Public servants take an oath of office, promise obedience to their superiors, and pledge to keep official matters secret. A civil servant may neither join an association nor be employed in another job that could be interpreted as unworthy of his or her position.
Besides the high esteem in which the civil service is held, job security is also an attractive feature. Periodic raises are automatic, and promotions are scheduled at regular intervals. The retirement pension is adequate. A civil servant may be dismissed only for serious misconduct.
During the grand coalition of 1945-66, the ÖVP and SPÖ introduced the system of Proporz into the civil service. Prior to the founding of the Second Republic, the civil service had been dominated by ÖVP members, and thus after 1945 special steps were taken to recruit persons with ties to the SPÖ. The two parties came to exercise almost complete control of the personnel of the ministries that they controlled in the cabinet. During the period of single-party rule (1966-83), the importance of political allegiance came to play a lesser role in the selection process of the civil service. Chancellor Kreisky made sure that a large number of persons without party affiliation were appointed to high-level positions in the civil service.
Reforms also were introduced in this period to make the civil service better able to attract highly qualified people. In 1975 a civil service training academy was established, and after 1980 some top positions were changed to fixed-term appointments. Further changes were made to give equal opportunity for career advancement to all members of the civil service, regardless of their specialty. Traditionally, people with legal training had a decided advantage in rising to the top of the system. As of 1993, the government was working on a comprehensive reform of the civil service system.
Each of the nine provinces has its own constitution, which prescribes its governmental organization. Common to each province is an elected Landtag (provincial legislature), which is popularly elected on the basis of proportional representation. According to the federal constitution, the number of deputies can range from thirty-six to sixty-five, depending on the population of the province. Vienna, which is simultaneously a province and a city, is in a special category--its legislature has 100 deputies. A Landtag is subject to dissolution by the federal president at the cabinet's request. This process requires the consent of the Bundesrat. One-half of the Bundesrat's deputies must be present and cast a two-thirds vote in favor of the action.
The Landtag elects an executive composed of a governor and councilors. A deputy is elected to serve in the absence of the governor. Candidates for these positions must meet eligibility requirements of the Landtag, although they need not belong to it. Elections to the Landtag occur every five years, except in Upper Austria, where they are held every six years. Legislative periods can be shortened and elections held if the Landtag votes to dissolve itself.
Provincial constitutions can be amended, provided that changes do not conflict with the federal constitution. Passage of a constitutional amendment requires the presence of at least onehalf of the Landtag's members and a two-thirds majority vote. Regulations for passage of other provincial laws vary, but generally the procedure requires a vote by the Landtag, verification that the proper procedure has been followed, the countersignature of the prescribed official, and publication in the provincial law gazette. Before a law is published, the federal minister whose jurisdiction covers the area of the proposed law has to be informed of the province's action. The cabinet then has eight weeks to notify the province if the bill interferes with federal interests. The Landtag can override the federal government's objections by voting again in favor of the bill with at least one-half of its members present. The federal government would probably appeal to the Constitutional Court if it strenuously objected to a provincial law.
The provinces have a restricted ability to raise taxes. They may not tax items already subject to federal taxation. Every four to six years, the federal government, the provinces, and the municipalities negotiate a Finance Equalization Law that determines how tax revenues raised at the federal and provincial levels are to be divided. This system ensures that the provinces are fully compensated for the many federal programs that they implement.
Article 15 (1) of the federal constitution states that matters not expressly reserved to the federal government come under the jurisdiction of the provinces. Matters in which the provinces have primary jurisdiction include local police, primary education, housing, health, and protection of the environment. If a provincial government believes that some federal action is infringing on its jurisdiction, it can appeal to the Constitutional Court for a ruling.
Provisions exist for interprovincial coordination of policies by means of compacts and treaties. Such coordination, however, is feasible only if the matters at hand are among the autonomous rights of the provinces. This manner of cooperation has rarely occurred. Instead, conferences of provincial officials are held to plan less formal methods of cooperation. The federal government must be notified of interprovincial action.
Provinces are divided into districts and local communities. The primary function of district governments is to administer federal programs. They do not have the power of taxation. A district is headed by a district commissioner, usually a career civil servant, who is appointed by the provincial governor. Local communities are self-governing, having a popularly elected community council that is chosen by proportional representation on the basis of political party strength. The number of representatives ranges from seven to 100, depending on the population. Members serve a five- or six-year term as determined by provincial regulations. Community council meetings are presided over by a mayor, elected by and responsible to the community council.
The federal government or a province may delegate some functions to a local government. Otherwise, local communities deal with matters of local concern, such as safety, traffic, police, settlement of disputes that are not dealt with by the courts, public utilities, cultural institutions, public housing, and health care services.
Local actions, whether autonomous or delegated, are in the long run usually subject to provincial or federal supervision or controls. Administrative and legal regulations on the provincial and federal levels are so pervasive that even decisions that are considered the sole responsibility of local communities are actually limited. Local communities, however, have recourse to the Administrative Court and the Constitutional Court if they believe that their rights are being infringed.
The electoral system is based on the principle of proportional representation. The system's basic outline was established in the constitution of 1920, although significant changes were made in 1970 and 1992. Among other changes, the amendments of 1970 raised the number of seats in the Nationalrat from 165 to 183.
The 1992 reform of the election law, which went into effect in May 1993, alters the electoral system for the Nationalrat in a number of significant ways. It divides the country into nine provincial electoral districts that correspond to the country's nine provinces. These districts contain a further forty-three regional electoral districts. The creation of the small regional electoral districts is intended to foster a greater feeling of connection between voters and those who represent them in parliament. The law also aims to personalize elections by giving voters greater power than before of electing individual candidates of the party of their choice by voting directly for them rather than for the party list of candidates as a whole. This reform may reduce the power of party leaders to impose their preselected candidates on the electorate. The law also modifies vote-counting procedures to ensure that the number of parliamentary seats won by a party will conform more closely with votes cast. Lastly, the law attempts to prevent a proliferation of small parties sitting in the Nationalrat by barring a party from that body if it has not won at least 4 percent of votes cast nationwide. However, a party can be represented in parliament by winning at least one seat in a regional electoral district.
According to the 1992 law, votes in Nationalrat elections are counted in three stages, although a voter casts only one ballot. On this ballot, the voter indicates the party of his choice, and then, if he wishes, he may choose two candidates from this party, one to be elected from the regional voting district and one from the provincial voting district. Votes going to a preferred candidate are called preferential votes. In the first stage of counting votes, the returns from regional voting districts are examined; in the second stage, those from provincial voting districts are examined. In these first two stages, the Hare system is used to determine the proportional allocation of seats. In the third stage of counting votes, candidates on the national party list are allocated seats according to the d'Hondt method.
A party must win a parliamentary seat in the first stage of vote counting in order to win seats in the second and third stages. A candidate who receives preferential votes amounting to at least one-sixth of the votes his party receives wins a parliamentary seat. This is also the case for a candidate who receives preferential votes amounting to at least one-half the electoral quota (Wahlzahl), that is, the number of valid ballots in a voting district divided by the number of parliamentary seats allotted to it. The vote tallying procedures established by the new law mean that about ninety parliamentary seats come from regional voting districts, about sixty-five from provincial voting districts, and roughly twenty-five from the federal level. All persons aged nineteen and over by January 1 of the year in which the election is held are eligible to vote. Voter participation has traditionally been very high. In national elections, it has fallen below 90 percent only once (in 1990, when it stood at 86 percent). Voting always takes place on a Sunday.
Between the end of World War II and the late 1980s, when some new trends became evident, Austria's political system seemed stable and unchangeable. Most political scientists considered Austria a classic case of constitutional democracy, that is, a political system in which cohesive social groups are closely identified with political parties. According to this theory, Austrian politics, business, and society in general were decisively shaped by the influence of three major social camps, or subcultures (Lager)--the socialist, the Catholicconservative , and the German-nationalist.
The most important factors in determining to which subculture a person belonged were geographic location (rural or urban), socioeconomic status, and professional occupation. The socialist camp had its basis in the urban working class of Vienna and other cities and in the intellectual class. The Catholic-conservative camp had its traditional base in the small towns and farming communities of Austria and was almost exclusively Roman Catholic. The German-nationalist camp was smaller than the other two subcultures and was founded on the enthusiasm for union with Germany that was prevalent during the years of the First Republic (1918-38). A high percentage of its members came from whitecollar professions.
Austria's subcultures provided their members with a selfcontained milieu in which to pursue their lives and a variety of occupations. In addition to the political parties aligned with the Lager, each camp featured professional and trade organizations that played an important role in party politics and in society as well.
This traditional system has continued into the 1990s. In 1993, in the socialist camp, the key organizations affiliated with the SPÖ were the Group of Socialist Trade Unionists (Fraktion Sozialistischer Gewerkschaftler--FSG), the Free Business Association of Austria (Freier Wirtschaftsverband Österreichs--FWB), and the SPÖ Farmers (SPÖ-Bauern). In the Catholic-conservative camp, the chief organizations of the ÖVP were the League of Austrian Workers and Salaried Employees (Österreichischer Arbeiter- und Angestelltenbund--ÖAAB), the League of Austrian Business (Österreichischer Wirtschaftsbund-- ÖWB), and the League of Austrian Farmers (Österreichischer Bauernbund--ÖBB). The German-nationalist camp, which is represented by the FPÖ, had only one auxiliary organization of note as of 1993, the Circle of Free Business Persons (Ring Freiheitlicher Wirtschaftstreibender--RFW).
A key source of influence for the professional and trade organizations is their control of the chambers of agriculture, commerce, and labor. In the Austrian corporatist system, the chambers are assigned responsibility for implementing certain aspects of economic laws and regulations. Moreover, membership in the chambers is obligatory for persons employed in a wide range of occupations. Thus, the professional and trade organizations and the chambers are assured a large amount of influence in the public realm. The ÖVP dominates the Chamber of Agriculture through the ÖAAB and the Chamber of Commerce through the ÖWB. The SPÖ has a controlling influence in the Chamber of Labor through the FSG.
The Austrian system of interests was dominated by the socialist and Catholic-conservative camps for virtually the entire postwar period. During the early years of the Second Republic, politicians of the SPÖ and ÖVP were adamant about the need for political consensus and compromise. One overriding reason for the emergence of a system designed to avoid conflict was the negative experience of the 1930s, when the political parties clashed so vehemently that they ended up fighting a short civil war in 1934. During the period of Nazi rule, many Austrian politicians found themselves imprisoned alongside their political opponents. This shared fate convinced the country's political elite of the imperative for consensus in postwar Austria. From 1945 to 1966, the country was ruled by the grand coalition formed by the ÖVP and the SPÖ, an astonishing duration of a series of governments composed of Austria's two main political competitors. The cumulative effect of a variety of changes in Austrian society in the postwar era has led many political scientists to conclude that the strength of the political camps, or Lager, has weakened significantly. A major shift in the way people earn their livelihood--a decline in farming and manufacturing and a growth in the services sector--has weakened the hold of the Lager on voters. An increasingly secularized society has lessened the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. An increased sense of Austria's existence as a nation (up from less than 50 percent in the mid-1960s to 74 percent in one poll in 1990) has reduced the political potency of pan-Germanism. And the growth of the suburbs and the transformation of rural areas by <> tourismhave reduced the homogeneity of traditional SPÖ and ÖVP enclaves.
The weakened hold of the Lager on Austrian society and politics has created opportunities for smaller parties. A 1990 poll showed that only 50 percent of respondents claimed some kind of identification with a political party; a mere 20 percent claimed strong identification. In the 1960s and 1970s, similar polls had shown that more than 30 percent of Austrians identified closely with a party. Services-sector, or white-collar, employees were often part of a block of so-called floating voters who did not identify with a particular party. This block can be the key to an electoral victory for the party that wins its votes.
The propensity toward what political scientists call electoral dealignment, that is, the breakdown of long-standing voter loyalties, was bound to have effects on Austrian voting behavior, and by 1986 the first signs of change were evident. In the parliamentary election of that year, the combined vote for the ÖVP and SPÖ fell to 84 percent, the first time since 1962 that it had dropped below 90 percent. The party benefiting the most from the losses by the major parties was the FPÖ, which doubled its vote. Moreover, for the first time ever, members of the Green political movement entered parliament.
The trend away from the dominance of the Lager system continued in the next parliamentary election in 1990, but this time it was the ÖVP alone that bore the brunt. Its share of the vote declined from 41.3 to 32.1 percent, a massive loss by the standard of Austria's ultrastable political system. The FPÖ had another striking success, and the environmentalists lost some votes but gained two seats in the Nationalrat.
Although the 1990 election did not lead to a change in government (because the ÖVP and SPÖ had renewed their grand coalition in 1987), it nevertheless marked a watershed in Austrian political history. For the first time in the Second Republic, the status of the ÖVP as a major party was placed in doubt. Whereas in the 1986 election the ÖVP received only 88,000 fewer votes than the SPÖ, in 1990 the difference ballooned to more than 500,000. Under its colorful leader, Jörg Haider, the FPÖ was changing the Austrian party system from one dominated by two parties to one with multiparty possibilities.
<>The Social Democratic
Party of Austria
<>The Austrian People's Party
<>The Freedom Party of Austria
<>The Green Parties
<>Political Developments since 1983
<>Election of Kurt Waldheim as President
<>The National Election of 1986 and the Grand Coalition of 1987-90
<>The Parliamentary Election of 1990
<>Events of 1991-93
The Social Democratic Party of Austria (Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs--SPÖ), until 1991 known as the Socialist Party of Austria (Sozialistische Partei Österreichs--SPÖ), has its roots in the original Social Democratic Workers' Party (Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei--SDAP), founded in 1889 by Viktor Adler, a young doctor. The SDAP supported revisionist Marxism and the use of democratic methods to establish workingclass rule in a democratic government. The SDAP was responsible for pushing through universal voting rights for men in 1905 and for extending the same for women in 1919. From 1934 to 1945, during the regimes of Engelbert Dollfuss (1932-34) and Kurt von Schuschnigg (1934-38) and the takeover by the Nazis, the SDAP was outlawed. In 1945 it was reconstituted as the Socialist Party of Austria. In 1991 the party readopted the designation "Social Democratic."
Moderates such as Karl Renner and Adolf Schärf, each of whom eventually served as president of the Second Republic, led the postwar party. Their primary interests lay in increasing SPÖ power in the coalition government rather than in fostering Marxism. Between 1945 and 1957, the party supported democratic practices and intraparty cooperation, programs for higher wages and lower food prices, and increased government spending on social programs.
The election of Bruno Pittermann as party chairman in 1957 marked the beginning of major policy changes. The party had a strong following among industrial workers, but party officials wanted to expand SPÖ membership to the middle class and whitecollar workers and to soften the party's anticlerical position in order to become acceptable to Roman Catholics. These changes were expressed in a new party program adopted in 1958. The program claimed that the SPÖ was "the party of all those who work for a living," and it stated the party's opposition to communism and fascism.
The late 1960s brought more changes in party doctrine. A new economic program in 1967 constituted a shift from concern for the distribution of wealth to concern for economic growth, including increasing foreign investment in Austria. Cultural and social reforms were demanded, and emphasis was placed on attending to the needs of young people. In line with its appeal to youth, the party supported a plan to shorten the term of military service.
Under Bruno Kreisky, who became chairman of the SPÖ in 1967, the party continued its move toward the center of the ideological spectrum. Although party platforms continued to refer to the classless society as an ideal, the SPÖ was careful to distinguish its brand of socialism from the centralized, inefficient version of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The party program of 1978 stressed the four principles of freedom, equality, justice, and solidarity. Central to the SPÖ's philosophy was a guarantee for all Austrians of freedom from fear, hunger, exploitation, and unemployment. The freedom to pursue wealth had to be balanced by the government's guarantee of equal opportunity and social justice.
Under Kreisky the SPÖ triumphed at the polls in 1970, 1971, 1975, and 1979, and between 1971 and 1983 the party enjoyed an absolute majority in parliament. The Kreisky governments laid great emphasis on improving the social welfare system and achieving full employment. The Kreisky era also featured the flourishing of the technocrats--SPÖ politicians successful in business and banking whose lavish life-styles seemed incongruous in a party supposed to represent the interests of labor.
In the parliamentary election of 1983, the SPÖ lost its absolute majority, and Kreisky decided to retire from politics rather than preside over a coalition government. Fred Sinowatz, Kreisky's minister for education, was chosen as chancellor in a coalition government with the FPÖ. The Sinowatz era, from 1983 to 1986, proved to be a short interregnum and was not distinguished by any great achievements.
Franz Vranitzky, born in 1937, became chancellor in June 1986 when Sinowatz resigned after the SPÖ lost the presidential election to Kurt Waldheim. Vranitzky replaced Sinowatz as party chairman in May 1988, becoming the first person from a workingclass background to hold this position. Despite his working-class heritage, Vranitzky had had a successful career in banking before entering politics.
Under Vranitzky the SPÖ moved to restore its image among rank-and-file members by improving its methods of intraparty communication. Computers and direct mail technology were used to gauge the opinions of members in the provinces, and efforts were made to improve recruiting techniques by means of recreational groups. In the area of government policy, Vranitzky stressed that limits on state activity were necessary, although he noted that health care and education were fields where market forces had to be regulated.
Vranitzky displayed a more open attitude toward the question of privatizing government industries than Kreisky had. To a large extent, changes in this area were inevitable because of large losses in the state industrial sector that came to light in 1985. Vranitzky embraced the principle that privatization should be pursued if it would lead to greater operational efficiency. The press dubbed Vranitzky's approach "pinstripe socialism." The policy has proven to be a responsible one and has been fairly popular with Austrians.
In 1984 the SPÖ launched a program called Perspectives '90, designed to promote intraparty discussion on current issues. A major aim of the leadership was to show that the party was eager to listen to grass-roots concerns. A series of nationwide debates eventually led to the issuance of a draft document in 1986 that incorporated the views of party members on issues such as the environment, controls on the development of technology, and democratization of society. Events that had embarrassed the party, such as the conflict over the Hainburg power plant in 1984 and Minister for Defense Friedhelm Frischenschläger's reception of Walter Reder in 1985, were also discussed.
An estimated 30,000 party members participated in the Perspectives '90 meetings, which took place in 1,000 local groups. The success of this project led the SPÖ to stage the Congress for the Future in Vienna in the summer of 1987, where 400 of the party's top leaders and intellectual luminaries discussed the outlook for social democracy. It was agreed that the SPÖ needed to formulate an alternative to the neoconservatism of the 1980s that would allow for greater codetermination in the workplace but also avoid the pitfalls of too much state control. After the success of this conference, the SPÖ began planning another that would produce a Social Democratic Manifesto for the Year 2000.
Membership in the SPÖ is direct (unlike the ÖVP, where a person joins an organization affiliated with the party). SPÖ's membership grew rapidly in the postwar period--from 360,000 members in 1946 to its peak of nearly 720,000 members in 1979. With the loosening of the grip of the Lager on Austrian society, SPÖ's membership has declined slightly. In the early 1990s, it was estimated at 700,000.
Party organization remained centralized as of the early 1990s. The main link between rank-and-file members and party leaders are the activists known as Vertrauenspersonen, who personally collect annual membership dues. At the local level, the SPÖ is represented by almost 4,000 groups in villages and towns. Every two years, the SPÖ holds a federal conference that elects the party executive, which has sixty-five members. Because of the executive's unwieldy size, a smaller group, known as the presidium, is selected from it and actually conducts most party business.
Delegates to the federal conference are drawn from the various suborganizations of the party. The party has two youth organizations, the Young Generation (Junge Generation--JG) and the Socialist Youth of Austria (Sozialistische Jugend Österreichs --SJÖ). The Group of Socialist Trade Unionists (Fraktion Sozialistischer Gewerkschaftler--FSG) sends fifty-two delegates to the conference. There is also a Women's Committee, which has representatives from each province. Over the years, women have consistently made up one-third of SPÖ's membership. In 1985 the federal conference passed an amendment providing for greater representation of women in the party and larger numbers of female candidates. Progress toward this goal has been slow, however, and in 1989 only eleven of the SPÖ's deputies in the Nationalrat were female.
SPÖ candidates for parliamentary elections are determined by the Party Council, whose members come from the nine provincial party organizations. The party executive and the heads of the nine provincial parties have an input into the selection process. Roughly one-fifth of the places are reserved for high-ranking party officials, whose presence in the Nationalrat is considered imperative.
The Austrian People's Party (Österreichische Volkspartei-- ÖVP) was created in Vienna in 1945 by leaders of the former Christian Social Party (Christlichsoziale Partei--CSP). The founders of the ÖVP made sure that the new party was only loosely tied to the Roman Catholic Church, unlike its predecessor. The ÖVP emerged as a conservative, democratic party based on Christian values that sought to include diverse interests. From 1945 to 1966, ÖVP politicians filled the post of chancellor in a series of grand coalition governments with the SPÖ (from 1945 to 1947, KPÖ members were also in the cabinet). From 1966 to 1970, the ÖVP ruled alone and thereafter entered a long period of opposition to the SPÖ, which ended in early 1987 when the two parties formed a new coalition government.
The ÖVP periodically has revised its party program. During the 1945-55 period, the party advocated low taxes, reduced government expenditures, a balanced budget, and low wage increases. The ÖVP favored a limited government role in the economy. After much debate, in 1965 the party adopted the Klagenfurt Manifesto, which referred to the ÖVP as an "open people's party" of the "new center." The manifesto laid less emphasis than previous ones on the priority of personal property in a democracy. It also stressed the importance of expanding economic welfare and educational opportunities for all social groups.
After suffering losses in the 1970 parliamentary election, the ÖVP entered the opposition for the first time. A wide-ranging discussion of principles took place at all levels of the party. The outcome of this process was the 1972 Salzburg Program, which described the ÖVP as a "progressive center party" dedicated to integrating Austria's different social groups. The program reaffirmed the party's commitment to a free and independent country, a multiparty democracy, and a social market economy combining free enterprise and some government intervention. As of 1993, the Salzburg Program had not been replaced as the basic statement of ÖVP ideology.
The ÖVP had a less centralized form of party organization than the SPÖ as of the early 1990s. At the top is the party presidium, composed of the party chairman, the chancellor and vice chancellor (if they are members of the ÖVP), the general secretary, up to six deputies to the chairman, the leader of the party's parliamentary faction, and eight additional members drawn from the provinces and interest groups affiliated with the party. The party holds a national conference at least once every three years. Roughly 600 delegates from the provinces and the party's auxiliary organizations attend the conference, which elects the party chairman, the deputies, and the general secretary.
The auxiliary organizations play important roles in the ÖVP's internal workings. The key organizations are the League of Austrian Workers and Salaried Employees (Österreichischer Arbeiter- und Angestelltenbund--ÖAAB), the League of Austrian Business (Österreichischer Wirtschaftsbund--ÖWB), and the League of Austrian Farmers (Österreichischer Bauernbund--ÖBB). These organizations represent the ÖVP in the chambers of labor, commerce, and agriculture, respectively. Until 1980 the leaders of these three groups were automatically placed on the party presidium. However, this practice was abandoned after many party members complained about undue influence by interest groups over ÖVP affairs. This reform was yet another indication of the erosion in the influence of the traditional Lager over Austrian society.
The majority of ÖVP members acquire party membership indirectly via one of the auxiliary organizations. Because of indirect membership, it is difficult to arrive at a precise figure for total membership in the ÖVP. At the beginning of the 1990s, the combined membership of the three leagues was about 800,000. Adding to this figure members of the women's, youth, and senior organizations, a total membership of 1.2 million was attained. However, the ÖVP's actual membership was about onethird smaller than this because many individuals belonged to more than one league or subgroup.
The independence of auxiliary organizations affiliated with the ÖVP means that there is a fairly high degree of intraparty disagreement over policies compared with the SPÖ and other Austrian parties. One major cleavage exists between the ÖAAB, which represents the interests of working people in the ÖVP, and the ÖWB, which speaks for business interests. The farmers' group, the ÖBB, has clashed with the ÖWB over the issue of whether Austria should join the European Union. Tensions between the wings of the party remained high even in the early 1990s, despite numerous partywide discussions of ideology designed to bring about consensus. Some experts believe that the cohesion of the Catholic-conservative Lager will be endangered if the ÖVP does not achieve a higher degree of party unity than that prevailing in 1993.
Alois Mock, who came from Lower Austria, one of the party's strongholds, held the position of party chairman from 1979 to 1989. As the party struggled with declining vote totals, many in the ÖVP concluded that his uncharismatic leadership style was a hindrance to a recovery at the polls. Mock withstood pressure for his ouster after the party's poor performance in the national election of 1986, and his stature temporarily increased when he became vice chancellor and foreign minister in the coalition government formed in early 1987 with the SPÖ. Discontent with Mock resurfaced quickly, however, and there were also disturbing signs of party disunity. After the heavy losses incurred by the ÖVP in the provincial elections in the spring of 1989, Mock's opponents pressed again for his resignation. At an emergency summit in April 1989, Mock was finally convinced to step down as party chairman. He also relinquished the post of vice chancellor. His replacement in both positions was Josef Riegler, a member of the ÖBB from Styria.
Riegler had served as agriculture minister between 1987 and 1989 and was known as a consensus seeker who would be able to get along well with the SPÖ. Riegler was also interested in developing new approaches to environmental problems, and many in the party hoped this would help the ÖVP regain some of the voters who had deserted it for the environmental, or Green, parties.
However, the devastating results of the October 1990 national election, in which the ÖVP's share of the vote declined by 9 percent, proved that the party's problems went much deeper than who held the post of party chairman. In May 1991, Riegler decided not to run again for the party chairmanship. Erhard Busek, a well-known ÖVP politician who had headed the party's Vienna branch between 1976 and 1989, won the election to succeed Riegler. At the same time, the party conference voted to reduce the number of the chairman's deputies from six to two, a sign that party members wanted to curb the influence of the interest groups.
The Freedom Party of Austria (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs--FPÖ) was founded in 1956 by Anton Reinthaller, who had served in the Seyss-Inquart national socialist government formed in collaboration with Hitler after the Anschluss in 1938. Anticlerical and pro-German, the FPÖ was the party of persons who were uncomfortable with the domination of Austrian politics by the "red-black" (socialist-clerical) coalition governments of the SPÖ and ÖVP. The party had liberal and nationalist wings, which frequently disagreed over strategy. Although the FPÖ was not an extremist party, it attracted many former Nazis with its philosophy that Austrians should think of themselves as belonging to a greater German cultural community.
The FPÖ's stress on nationalism made it an atypical liberal party. Nevertheless, in 1979 the FPÖ was admitted to Liberal International, the worldwide group of liberal parties. The FPÖ's ideology emphasized the preservation of individual liberties in the face of the growth of the state's power. The party enthusiastically endorsed free enterprise and individual initiative and opposed a larger role for the state in the ownership of enterprises. The FPÖ was also against the socialist idea of striving for greater equality between socioeconomic groups.
After Reinthaller's death in 1958, Friedrich Peter became the head of the FPÖ. Under his leadership, the liberal wing increased its influence, and ties to the SPÖ were developed. However, the FPÖ remained a minor party with a limited opposition role in the parliament. Between 1956 and 1983, the FPÖ's share of the vote stagnated between 5.0 and 7.7 percent. After the election of 1970, the FPÖ struck a deal with the SPÖ, which promised electoral reform in exchange for the FPÖ's support of Kreisky's minority government. The ensuing changes in the electoral laws helped the FPÖ increase its representation in parliament in subsequent elections, despite the fact that its vote totals did not rise at the same time. Peter's hope that he could make the FPÖ attractive to the SPÖ as a coalition partner was dashed by Kreisky's success in obtaining absolute majorities in the elections of 1971, 1975, and 1979. It was only in 1983, when the SPÖ lost its majority, that it turned to the FPÖ to form a government. The FPÖ's brief three-year experience in power in the SPÖ-FPÖ coalition of 1983-86 was mostly frustrating, as the government stumbled from one crisis to the next.
Norbert Steger was FPÖ party chairman between 1980 and 1986. A member of the party's liberal wing, Steger served as vice chancellor and minister for trade in the SPÖ-FPÖ coalition. He was not a charismatic politician, and, as the coalition's troubles mounted, he began to lose support among the party's rank and file. At an FPÖ convention in the spring of 1986, Jörg Haider, leader of the Carinthian branch of the party, launched a successful coup against Steger and became the new chairman.
Haider, born in 1950, is a handsome, dashing figure whose self-confidence strikes many observers as verging on arrogance. He comes from the nationalist wing of the party and has stirred controversy on many occasions by his remarks about Austria's proper place in the German cultural community. On one occasion in 1988, Haider referred to Austria as "an ideological deformity." Since Haider took control of the FPÖ in 1986, the party has achieved dramatic gains at the polls in both national and provincial elections. In the March 1989 provincial election in Carinthia, the FPÖ displaced the ÖVP as the second strongest party, and Haider was elected governor of the province with votes from the ÖVP. This election marked the first time that a provincial governor was not from either of the two major parties. Haider's term as governor was cut short in June 1991 by the controversy unleashed by his remark during a parliamentary debate that the Third Reich's employment policy was a positive model. The ÖVP and SPÖ joined together to pass a vote of no confidence against Haider, marking the first time in the history of the Second Republic that a governor was forced to step down. Haider did not allow this setback to create challenges to his leadership of the party. In three provincial elections in the fall of 1991, Haider led the FPÖ to outstanding showings, proving that Austrian voters were increasingly ready to vote for alternatives to the two major parties.
A less charitable interpretation of the FPÖ's rise under Haider is that Austrian politics has taken a turn to the right. At times in his career, Haider has given his critics ample reason for accusing him of neo-Nazi tendencies. He has frequently pandered to the sentiments of the far right, but his everyday political discourse is more moderate. Haider tailors his remarks to his audiences, and he resorts to the rhetoric of right-wing populism in order to inspire the conservative nationalists in the FPÖ.
A major element in Haider's prescriptions for Austria is his desire to cut down drastically on the number of foreigners allowed to live in the country. Haider consistently argues that immigration is excessive and is causing serious problems for Austrian citizens in the areas of jobs and housing. Haider's campaign against foreigners was a major reason for the passage of a 1991 law that decreed that foreign workers could not make up more than 10 percent of the work force. In 1993 this ceiling was reduced to 9 percent when a new law, the Resident Alien Law, went into effect. Early in the same year, Haider sponsored a referendum to further tighten the control over the number of foreigners in Austria. Although he got only half of the 800,000 signatures he sought, the language Haider used in his campaign was extreme enough to cause large counterdemonstrations.
The tensions between Haider and the liberal wing of the party caused five FPÖ members of the Nationalrat to leave the party in early 1993 and form a new party, The Liberal Forum (Das Liberale Forum). Led by the FPÖ's 1992 presidential candidate, Heide Schmidt, the group won seats in the Upper Austria provincial elections of May 1993. The new party was also recognized by Liberal International, which was expected to expel Haider's FPÖ from its ranks in 1994 because it advocated policies incompatible with traditional European liberalism.
Despite these setbacks, Haider is expected to remain a formidable force in Austrian politics. His sense for the issues that trouble many voters and his ability to enunciate views too extreme for the larger parties will likely win him a substantial following during the rest of the 1990s as the country struggles to adapt to post-Cold War conditions.
Membership in the FPÖ is direct (there is no tradition of joining an organization affiliated with the party, as with the SPÖ). The party's membership grew from 22,000 in 1959 to 40,000 in 1990. The membership-voter ratio declined as the party made dramatic gains at the polls. The FPÖ's share of the vote in national elections tripled between 1983 and 1990, when it achieved 16.6 percent. The FPÖ has a strong base of support in the provinces of Carinthia and Salzburg. The party draws much of its support from the middle class, salaried employees, and the self-employed. More than 60 percent of its voters are under the age of forty-four, and many are well educated. The party has few auxiliary organizations, in comparison with the ÖVP and the SPÖ. In addition to an organization for people in business, it has groups for academics, students, and retired persons. The FPÖ's party structure is decentralized, and provincial organizations play an important role in party affairs. The party chairman, who is elected by the party conference, chooses the party manager and general secretary. The general secretary acts as a liaison between federal leaders and provincial organizations.
Another clear sign that the Austrian party system is loosening up was the emergence during the early 1980s of organized environmental, or Green, parties. A major catalyst in the birth of the Green movement in Austria was the narrow defeat of the November 5, 1978, national referendum on nuclear energy. The Kreisky government, seeking to build a nuclear power plant in Zwentendorf near Vienna, decided to let the people decide on the question of nuclear energy.
The victory of the antinuclear forces encouraged environmental activists to run in local elections, and in 1982 two national Green parties were formed. The more moderate of the two, the United Greens of Austria (Vereinigte Grüne Österreichs-- VGÖ), had a strong commitment to working within the existing political system to change environmental policies. The Alternative List of Austria (Alternative Liste Österreichs--ALÖ), founded in 1982 on the fourth anniversary of the Zwentendorf referendum, was more willing to challenge the political status quo. In addition to championing radical changes in environmental policy, the ALÖ also advocated a guaranteed national income, a thirty-five-hour workweek, and greater government ownership in certain areas of the economy.
The prospects of the Green parties are limited by their frequent inability to form alliances for the purpose of contesting elections. When the ALÖ and VGÖ have campaigned on a common ticket, they usually have won seats in parliament. In 1983, the first national election in which the Green parties participated, the two groups ran on separate lists, and both failed to gain representation in the Nationalrat. The Green cause received a strong boost in 1984 from the confrontation between the SPÖ-FPÖ government and environmental activists opposed to the plan to build a hydroelectric plant in a wetland forest at Hainburg in eastern Austria. The government backed down from its plan, and the incident led to an increase in support for the Green parties from disillusioned SPÖ voters, intellectuals, and others with strong views on the environment.
Green activist Freda Meissner-Blau ran in the May 1986 presidential election, taking a surprising 5.5 percent of the vote, which necessitated a run off between the ÖVP and SPÖ candidates. Encouraged by this showing, the ALÖ and VGÖ, after long negotiations, agreed to participate in the November 1986 national election on a single list, named the Green Alternative-- Freda Meissner-Blau List. The Green Alternative took 4.8 percent of the vote and won eight seats in parliament. This marked only the second time in the history of the Second Republic that a fourth party had entered the Nationalrat. (The KPÖ had been in the parliament between 1945 and 1959.) The harmony between the two groups was short-lived, however, as they clashed over how to divide the federal financing that became available to the Green movement. In the 1990 national election, the VGÖ put up its own list of candidates, and the ALÖ ran as the Green Alternative/Greens in Parliament (Grüne Alternative/Grüne in Parliament--GAL). The VGÖ polled only 1.9 percent of the vote and failed to win any seats. The GAL took 4.5 percent of the vote and increased the number of Green deputies to ten.
As of the early 1990s, the future of Green politics in Austria remained uncertain because of the strong differences between the GAL and VGÖ over political strategy. The VGÖ was committed to developing a centralized party structure along the lines of the ÖVP and SPÖ, while the ALÖ preferred to allow complete autonomy for its affiliated organizations in the provinces. There were also questions about the longevity of the Greens' appeal to voters. Studies indicated that only 50 percent of Green voters had close ties to a Green party, and roughly 35 percent of Green votes came from floating voters who had abandoned the two major parties. However, many Austrians felt a lack of confidence in the abilities of the ÖVP and SPÖ to fashion constructive policies, and as long as this doubt persists, the Green parties will have opportunities to elect deputies to parliament.
In 1983 a thirteen-year period of single-party rule by the SPÖ came to an end. The period had been dominated by Bruno Kreisky, who served as chancellor for the entire time. With Kreisky as its leader, the SPÖ had emerged from the election in 1970 as the strongest party. This election marked a turning point in Austrian history because never before had a socialist party been given such a mandate by the voters. The outcome was conclusive proof that most Austrians had lost their fear of the SPÖ's being too leftist to govern alone.
In the election of 1983, the SPÖ lost its absolute majority in the Nationalrat, although it remained the largest party. Kreisky fulfilled his pledge to resign as chancellor if the SPÖ lost its undisputed position in parliament. Fred Sinowatz, a rather colorless figure who had been minister for education under Kreisky, was selected as the new chancellor. The SPÖ decided to form a coalition with the FPÖ, marking the first time ever that the FPÖ had joined the government. Norbert Steger, the moderate chairman of the FPÖ, was named vice chancellor and minister for economic affairs, and other members of his party became minister for defense and minister for justice.
The SPÖ-FPÖ coalition lasted only three years and was not very productive. It faced a series of crises that never allowed it to become firmly established. Although the coalition had made progress on environmental protection a high priority, its decision to build a hydroelectric plant at Hainburg in a wetland forest east of Vienna provoked a storm of opposition from environmental activists. In the end, the government decided to cancel the project.
The coalition's image received another black mark in 1985 when FPÖ Minister for Defense Friedhelm Frischenschläger staged a welcoming ceremony at the airport for Walter Reder, a former Waffen SS member who had been serving a life sentence for executing civilians during World War II before being pardoned by the Italians. Some SPÖ members of the cabinet threatened to resign over this affair, but Frischenschläger was allowed to remain in his post. This incident hurt the SPÖ's standing among its own members, as well as among independent voters.
Austria received further unpleasant jolts in 1985. First came the news that diethylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze, had been added to Austrian wines in potentially lethal amounts. The wines affected came from Burgenland, the home province of Chancellor Sinowatz. Even more damaging to the country's selfimage , however, was the crisis in the state-run industrial sector that came to light at roughly the same time. The government announced that it had uncovered a financial scandal at the United Austrian Iron and Steel Works (Vereinigte Österreichische Eisenund Stahlwerke--VÖEST; commonly known as VÖEST-Alpine) in Linz. Public funds were required to cover large losses incurred through risky and unauthorized speculation in oil ventures. Moreover, the entire state industrial sector required streamlining, and jobs had to be cut.
The method of staffing these industries was a prime example of the ÖVP and SPÖ's Proporz system, which created fiefdoms in which political affiliations were the main criteria for filling high-level management positions. The crisis in this sector of the economy revealed that the Kreisky governments had been guilty of serious mismanagement. The confidence of the SPÖ in particular was shaken as it faced the need for privatization and layoffs. The government abolished the Proporz system at VÖEST-Alpine and appointed new management to rectify the problems.
In 1986 Austrians prepared to elect a new president. The race featured two major candidates, Kurt Waldheim for the ÖVP and Kurt Steyrer for the SPÖ, plus two less well-known candidates, a Green party activist and a former member of the FPÖ. Waldheim was one of Austria's best known citizens by virtue of his having served two terms as secretary general of the United Nations in the 1970s. Waldheim had joined the ÖVP only in early 1985 when the party decided to offer him its presidential candidate's spot. He was presented to the voters as "the man the world trusts." Steyrer was the minister for health and the environment in the SPÖ-FPÖ government. His campaign stressed his role as a family man and a humanitarian.
The 1986 presidential campaign would have taken place without many people outside Austria taking note of it, except that it focused on an issue that proved extremely sensitive for audiences inside and outside of the country. In March 1986, Profil, a <"http://worldfacts.us/Austria-Vienna.htm">Viennabased magazine specializing in investigative reporting, began to publish a series of articles claiming that Waldheim had left out crucial details about his service in the army, the German Wehrmacht, during World War II. In an autobiography published a few months before, Waldheim had glossed over most of his wartime service, alleging that he had spent much of the war in Vienna studying law while recuperating from wounds he had received. Profil, foreign newspapers, and the World Jewish Council in New York unearthed evidence that Waldheim had spent considerable time on duty in the Balkans and in Salonika, Greece. The German army had carried out brutal occupations of these areas, murdering thousands of Yugoslav partisans and deporting Greek Jews to the concentration camps in Central Europe. Waldheim, while not accused of personally participating in any atrocities, made the unbelievable claim that he had not heard of any misdeeds by the German armed forces in the Balkans or Greece until he had read the current newspaper accounts. He stuck by his account that he had been on leave when atrocities were committed, and he defended himself by saying he "had only done his duty as a soldier."
As the scrutiny of Waldheim intensified, Austrians became polarized over whether to defend or criticize him. Many older Austrians, particularly those who had served in the German army, agreed with his self-defense that he had merely done his duty in a war that Austria had not wished for. Others became more suspicious of Waldheim when documentary evidence was produced suggesting that he may have joined the Nazi Party to further his chances for a diplomatic career. The presidential campaign degenerated into a mudslinging affair, and the ÖVP launched attacks against the character of the SPÖ candidate.
Despite the furor surrounding him, on May 4, 1986, Waldheim outpolled Steyrer by 49.7 to 43.7 percent. He fell only 16,000 votes short of the absolute majority required for victory, and thus a runoff between the two top candidates was scheduled for June 8. Waldheim won the runoff handily, garnering 54 percent of the vote. Steyrer's candidacy had been handicapped by his membership in a government burdened by financial mismanagement of state industries and other scandals. Waldheim benefited from a wave of sympathy from certain segments of the Austrian electorate, who viewed him as a victim of unfair attacks.
The Waldheim presidency proved to be a major burden for Austria. In April 1987, after a one-year study of the matter by the United States Department of Justice, the United States placed Waldheim on its "watch list" of undesirable aliens. The department had concluded that there was "a prima facie case that Kurt Waldheim assisted or otherwise participated in the persecution of persons because of race, religion, national origin, or political opinion." Waldheim became the first active chief of state ever to be placed on the list of 40,000 subversives, terrorists, and criminals. Waldheim became isolated internationally and found support only from the Soviet Union, some of the communist governments of Eastern Europe, and Arab states such as Jordan, one of the few countries he was to visit during his presidency.
In June 1987, the Viennese branch of the SPÖ passed a resolution calling for Waldheim to resign. Chancellor Vranitzky and Sinowatz, the chairman of the SPÖ, defended Waldheim, arguing that he had been elected democratically. Strains were beginning to appear within the ÖVP-SPÖ coalition over the affair, and somehow a resolution needed to be brought about. In an effort to achieve this resolution, the Austrian government announced that it would appoint an international panel of historians and human rights experts to examine the whole matter.
The panel presented its findings in February 1988. The panel found no direct evidence that Waldheim had participated in war crimes during his military service in the Balkans and Greece. However, it concluded that he must have had some knowledge that atrocities were taking place. Predictably, Waldheim took the panel's report as his exoneration, as did most ÖVP leaders. The president gave a speech in which he said he believed it to be in the best interests of Austria that he remain in office.
The release of the panel's report came one month before the fiftieth anniversary of the Anschluss of March 1938. At a public commemoration of this event in Vienna, Vranitzky solemnly informed the Austrian people that it was time for all of them to face up to the fact that their country had been not only the first victim of Nazi aggression but also a participant in Hitler's military conquests. Waldheim gave a television address in which he described the Holocaust as one of the greatest tragedies of history and admitted that Austrians had played a role in it. He condemned fanaticism and intolerance and expounded on Austria's dual role as victim and culprit. For Waldheim's critics, it was a respectable performance, but woefully late. Austrian emotions had been rubbed raw by the Waldheim affair, but at least it presented Austrians with an opportunity to discuss openly issues that had effectively been taboo for fifty years.
The election of Waldheim had a large impact on Austrian domestic politics as well. After Waldheim's victory, Sinowatz, the SPÖ chancellor who had been perceived as ineffective, resigned, and the SPÖ turned to Franz Vranitzky to fill the top position. Vranitzky decided to dissolve the SPÖ-FPÖ coalition when the leadership of the junior party was usurped in September 1986 by Jörg Haider. Haider was prone to making controversial remarks about Austria's place in the greater German cultural identity, and Vranitzky had little hesitation in cutting the SPÖ's ties to the FPÖ under its new leader. This action led to a premature parliamentary election in November 1986. Pressures for an early election also came from the financial failures in the state industrial sector that had embarrassed the SPÖ-FPÖ government.
The outcome of the election was a shock to both major parties, as the FPÖ attained its highest vote total since 1953, receiving 9.7 percent. The SPÖ lost ten seats in the Nationalrat, dropping to eighty, and the ÖVP lost four, declining to seventyseven . After lengthy negotiations, in early 1987 the two major parties decided to form a grand coalition for the first time since 1966. Vranitzky remained chancellor, and Alois Mock, leader of the ÖVP, became vice chancellor and foreign minister. The two parties agreed to split the remaining cabinet posts, with the Ministry for Justice going to a person with no party affiliation. Former Chancellor Kreisky complained loudly about Vranitzky's giving the foreign ministry portfolio to the ÖVP, and he resigned as honorary chairman of the SPÖ in protest.
The new grand coalition was not able to function in the cozy way the old grand coalition had because media scrutiny was much greater in the 1980s than it had been between 1945 and 1966. Further, one of the coalition's top priorities was to address the problems in the state industrial sector and the budget deficit in general. The government carried out job cutbacks and early retirement programs at VÖEST-Alpine, the state-run iron and steel conglomerate, and also reduced subsidies to farmers. These policies hurt key interests of both parties' core constituencies, but ÖVP and SPÖ leaders saw little alternative to tackling these problems head on. Austrian politics had entered a new stage that was short on the optimism of the Kreisky era and focused on pragmatic and hard-headed solutions to economic problems.
The ÖVP-SPÖ government benefited from improving economic conditions, especially from 1988 onward. Economic growth for the years 1988-90 averaged around 4 percent annually. Other economic indicators were also positive, with unemployment averaging around 5 percent and inflation running at 2.5 percent. In the political realm, however, the coalition was plagued by numerous scandals involving primarily high-ranking officials of the SPÖ. In late 1988 and early 1989, two of these officials were forced to resign for large-scale tax evasion. Chancellor Vranitzky, who had replaced Sinowatz as party chairman in May 1988, initially was hesitant to fire his friend Günther Sallaberger, who had failed to pay taxes on S1.8 million. Pressure to remove Sallaberger became intense after party members were shocked to learn that he was an example of a trend in which holders of multiple posts within the SPÖ were actually earning more money than the chancellor.
An even larger scandal emerged when the SPÖ became embroiled in an insurance scandal centering on Udo Proksch, the notorious former owner of Demel's, Vienna's most famous coffee house and meetingplace for SPÖ bigwigs. A ship commissioned by Proksch, the Lucona, had sunk in 1977 with the loss of six crew members. Proksch claimed that the ship had been carrying a uranium processing plant, but documents describing the ship's cargo were found to have been forged, and Proksch was accused of deliberately sinking the vessel. The investigation into the affair moved at a snail's pace. By early 1989, a parliamentary committee that had been formed to look into the case began to focus on two leading SPÖ officials, Minister for Interior Karl Blecha and Leopold Gratz, the first president of the Nationalrat.
The committee's investigations provided some of the most dramatic political theater ever seen in the Second Republic. After tough cross-examinations of subordinate officials, the committee and the public began to suspect that Blecha had deliberately slowed up the Lucona investigation in the early 1980s. Blecha's denials of any wrongdoing were unconvincing, and Vranitzky forced him to resign.
Gratz, who had been foreign minister at the time the forged documents relating to the Lucona's cargo had arrived in Vienna, was suspected of even greater complicity in the affair. As the committee did its work, it appeared increasingly clear that Gratz had covered up important details of the affair to protect Proksch. Gratz resigned his position when, like Blecha, he had lost all support within the SPÖ. In the face of a very bleak ethical situation, Vranitzky could at least claim that he had acted relatively quickly to clean house.
The ÖVP and SPÖ approached the parliamentary election of 1990 with trepidation. In 1989 the political landscape had been shaken by Haider's FPÖ, which had racked up impressive gains in provincial elections in Carinthia, Salzburg, and Tirol. Even though questions had been raised about Haider's honesty, he continued to entice voters to leave the major parties. The FPÖ scored a spectacular success in Carinthia, where it displaced the ÖVP as the second largest party, and it caused the ÖVP to lose its absolute majority in Salzburg.
In the October 1990 national election, the FPÖ again shocked the political establishment by increasing its share of the vote from 9.7 to 16.6 percent. This gain came almost completely at the expense of the ÖVP, whose share of the vote declined from 41.3 to 32.1 percent. The SPÖ's share of the vote remained essentially the same, which surprised everyone. The party, realizing that its strong suit was the popularity of Vranitzky, employed a new electoral strategy that probably explains its ability to avoid the ÖVP's fate. With Vranitzky as the top candidate in all nine electoral districts, the SPÖ urged voters to cast preference votes for Vranitzky, which could be done without selecting the SPÖ box on the ballot (these votes would count toward the SPÖ's total number of seats in the Nationalrat, however). A nonpartisan committee was organized to carry out this campaign, and it succeeded in attracting support from sources that otherwise might not have voted for the SPÖ in the regular manner. Because of disagreements between the two Green parties, they did not run on a united ticket as they had in 1986. The Green Alternative/Greens in Parliament (Grüne Alternative/Grüne in Parliament--GAL), formerly known as the Alternative List of Austria, received 4.5 percent and increased its seats in the parliament from eight to ten. The United Greens of Austria (Vereinigte Grüne Österreichs--VGÖ) received only 1.9 percent and won no seats.
Given the antipathy that Vranitzky felt for Haider, there was no chance of a revival of an SPÖ-FPÖ coalition. After a period of negotiations, the SPÖ and ÖVP agreed to continue the grand coalition. Because economic conditions were much improved in comparison with 1986, the new coalition planned to focus on issues such as social welfare, health care, science, and research. Attention would also be given to reforming the country's electoral system and its chambers of commerce and labor. Increasing numbers of Austrians regarded the former as unrepresentative and resented the latter's requirement of compulsory membership. The coalition partners decided to upgrade the position of state secretary for women's affairs to full cabinet rank, and the new Ministry for Women's Affairs was created to oversee these matters.
The trend toward the dissolution of the two-party system was confirmed by the outcomes in four provincial elections held in 1991. The FPÖ increased its share of the vote in all four elections, and in Styria and Upper Austria it tripled its vote to 15.4 and 17.7 percent, respectively. In Vienna the FPÖ displaced the ÖVP as the second most powerful party in the provincial legislature, a particularly embarrassing result for the ÖVP. The ÖVP lost ground in all four elections, while the SPÖ lost seats in three elections. With its showing in Vienna, the FPÖ became the second strongest party in two of Austria's nine provinces, having achieved the same status in Carinthia in 1989, also displacing the ÖVP.
In June 1991, President Kurt Waldheim announced that he would not seek reelection in 1992. ÖVP leaders were relieved that Waldheim had decided to retire from politics because they feared the eruption of another bitter controversy over his wartime record if he had chosen to run. Waldheim became the first incumbent Austrian president not to seek reelection. Initially, the ÖVP and SPÖ looked into the possibility of nominating a joint candidate for the 1992 election. However, the two parties were unable to agree on a candidate, and in November 1991 they and the FPÖ each announced separate candidates. The ÖVP selected Thomas Klestil, a career diplomat and former ambassador to the United States. The SPÖ candidate was Rudolf Streicher, head of the Ministry for National Industry and Transportation. The FPÖ candidate was Heide Schmidt, who was also third president of the Nationalrat. The Green candidate was the scientist Robert Jungk.
No candidate was able to win an absolute majority in the first balloting on April 26, 1992. Streicher polled 41 percent, compared with Klestil's 37 percent, but far ahead of Schmidt's 16 percent and Jungk's 6 percent. In the run-off elections four weeks later, when only the top two candidates were on the ballots, Klestil scored an easy victory over Streicher with 57 percent of the total vote. Controversy about his opponent's war record, a series of scandals connected to the SPÖ, and Klestil's skill in dealing with the media contributed to his easy victory in the second round of voting. Perhaps most important, however, was his career as a diplomat abroad that had kept him out of politics (although he was an ÖVP member) and made him seem well suited for leading the country into the post-Cold War era.
The collapse of the Soviet empire and the former Yugoslavia increased the number of foreigners coming to Austria. The influx of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants posed a challenge to Austrian authorities. In 1992 and 1993, new laws went into effect that sought to reduce the number of those coming to the country for asylum and to more strictly control the large foreign community already present in Austria. The laws resulted both from serious practical problems of caring for foreigners in need of food and fears of many Austrians that their country was in danger of Überfremdung, that is, being submerged by everincreasing waves of foreign immigrants. Some politicians, most notably Haider, sought to profit politically from these fears.
In early 1993, a referendum sponsored by Haider was held to determine popular support for further tightening the laws regulating foreigners. More than 400,000 signatures were collected, half of what Haider had sought but still a significant response. Large counterdemonstrations were held to protest Haider's suggested policies, but it was clear that Haider had tapped into widespread fears and resentments. Haider's extremism resulted in some FPÖ members leaving the party and forming their own party, The Liberal Forum (Das Liberale Forum). Led by Heide Schmidt, the FPÖ presidential candidate in 1992, the group won three seats in the May 1993 Landtag election in Upper Austria. Additional successes for the new party were its being recognized both by the Nationalrat as a political party and by Liberal International.
Apprehension about joining--or not joining--the European Union was another force driving Austrian politics. As the economy slumped and headed to an overall negative growth rate for 1993, Haider modified his previous endorsement of EU membership, sensing a chance to profit from fears about what Austria's participation in a larger Europe might bring. The ÖVP and SPÖ remained strongly in favor. After much delay, Austria will join the European Economic Area on January 1, 1994. The EEA will then consist of EU and European Free Trade Association countries, with the exception of Switzerland, and will form a free-market economy of sixteen nations and 380 million inhabitants.
The Austrian press operates freely under the constitution of 1920, which guarantees all citizens freedom of expression in speech, writing, and print. The constitution also forbids any government censorship of the press or electronic media. Austria has a well-developed system of print and electronic media that provides its citizens with a wide variety of news sources and entertainment. Newspapers and Periodicals
The Austrian newspaper market is one of the most concentrated in Europe. Three dailies, the Neue Kronen-Zeitung, Täglich Alles, and Kurier, account for more than half of the newspapers sold in the country. By 1993 their daily circulations were 1.1 million, 500,000, and 390,000, respectively, with higher circulations on Sundays. All three specialize in tabloid-style journalism, with a tendency toward sensationalism. Better educated Austrians, especially in the larger cities, read either Die Presse or Der Standard, both high-quality newspapers published in Vienna with circulations of less than 100,000.
As of the early 1990s, a total of seventeen daily newspapers were published in Austria, and thirteen regional editions of some of these papers were published. Since the early 1970s, the importance of political party newspapers has declined precipitously. The SPÖ publishes one newspaper and the ÖVP two, all of which have circulations of less than 100,000. The SPÖ's venerable newspaper, Arbeiterzeitung, established in 1895, was sold to private interests in the late 1980s when the party decided it no longer wished to cover the newspaper's massive losses.
Austria also has many periodicals and magazines. Among the weekly periodicals, Profil, with a circulation of more than 100,000 in 1993, has emerged as one of the best practitioners of investigative journalism in the country. Another weekly magazine, News, has a circulation of more than 200,000, although it was only founded in October 1992. Other periodicals of note include Wochenpresse, a weekly; Trend, a monthly journal devoted to economic news; and Wiener, a monthly.
Rising concern over financial difficulties faced by small publishers led the Austrian government to decide in 1975 that subsidies should be made available to newspapers and magazines meeting certain criteria. For a daily newspaper to receive government funds, it must have a minimum circulation of 10,000 and regional distribution. Weekly newspapers are required to have a minimum circulation of 5,000. Magazines are eligible for funds if they publish between four and forty issues a year. To be considered for funding, a newspaper or magazine must file a formal application with the government. Specific allocations are decided on a case-by-case basis, and various formulas are used to spread the funds among a large number of publications. No single newspaper can receive more than 5 percent of the total budget earmarked for support of the daily press.
In 1982 Austria brought its press laws up to date with the passage of the Federal Law on the Press and Other Journalistic Media, which clarifies the rights of individuals to sue for damages when they believe they have been slandered or defamed by the press. The law establishes maximum amounts of S50,000 for defamation of character and S100,000 for slander. The law stipulates that damages are not to be awarded if it can be shown that the public interest was served by the publication of the material or of allegations in dispute. The law also grants individuals and corporations the right to respond in print to published reports they regard as defamatory. However, a newspaper can refuse to publish a rejoinder if it can prove that the report is not factual. Individuals and corporations may respond only to factual reporting; articles containing editorial opinions and value judgments are not covered by this provision of the press law.
Other provisions of the 1982 law strengthened the rights of journalists. Journalists are guaranteed the right to refuse to collaborate in assignments they regard as incompatible with their ethical convictions. The law also affirms the right of journalists not to divulge their sources in a court of law. The law further states that the government may not place the communications facilities of an organ of the press under surveillance unless it has reason to believe that a crime carrying a sentence of at least ten years may have been committed.Radio and Television
As of late 1993, radio and television programming in Austria was provided exclusively by Austrian Radio and Television (Österreichischer Rundfunk--ORF). This state monopoly is expected to end in the mid-1990s because such monopolies are no longer seen by many European jurists as compatible with the free exchange of information and ideas. ORF was formed as a public corporation in 1945 and reorganized in 1967 for greater political and financial independence. In 1974 a constitutional law was passed giving ORF complete financial autonomy from the government and guaranteeing it freedom from attempts by the government or any state body to exert influence on programming. Additional laws passed in that year required ORF to present objective reporting, a variety of opinions, and balanced programming.
As of 1993, ORF had two television channels and three radio channels. FS 1 and FS 2, the two television channels, feature a wide variety of programs, including news, entertainment, education, and music. In 1988 the nine regional ORF studios began broadcasting local programs. Various groups attempted to make the case for allowing independent television in Austria, but, as of 1993, they had not persuaded the government to lift the monopoly enjoyed by ORF. During the 1980s, cable television became available, and by 1990 roughly 15 percent of Austrian homes received cable programming. One of the major cable programs, 3 Sat, is a joint venture of ORF, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, and one of Germany's television networks.
ORF has four radio channels. The first channel, Österreich 1, features culturally oriented programs devoted to music, literature, science, and news. The second channel, Österreich Regional, carries programming produced by the nine regional ORF studios, with an emphasis on popular entertainment and local events. Österreich 3 is an entertainment channel, which also carries hourly news broadcasts. The fourth network, Blue Danube Radio, is also an entertainment channel but differs in that it broadcasts mainly in English. Its news programs are in German, English, and French.
Beginning in 1955, the guiding principle of Austrian foreign policy was neutrality. As part of an agreement reached that year with the Four Powers (Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States), Austria passed an amendment to its constitution declaring that it would forever remain neutral. Specifically, Austria pledged that it would never join any military alliances or allow foreign troops to be stationed on its soil. The commitment to neutrality was seen by virtually all political groups as a sensible step to achieve the complete removal of occupying forces from the country.
However, Austria chose to pursue a looser model of neutrality than that followed by other states, such as Switzerland. Austria joined the United Nations (UN) in 1955, shortly after making its neutrality pledge. Austria did not take neutrality to mean that it should occupy a moral middle ground between the democratic countries of the West and the totalitarian states of the East during the Cold War period. In terms of political and social ideology, Austria was firmly within the community of democratic nations.
A second important principle of Austrian foreign policy was internationalism. Austria was active in many international organizations, such as the UN and its subsidiary agencies. The country was a long-time participant in UN peacekeeping operations. An Austrian medical team served in the Congo (present-day Zaire) between 1960 and 1963, and medical teams and soldiers have served continuously in Cyprus since 1964 and at various times in Egypt and Israel since 1968. Vienna was the home of two UN entities, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. During the Cold War period, Austria consistently supported all attempts at fostering détente between the United States and the Soviet Union. Austria's leaders pursued this policy because they realized that heightened tensions between the superpowers would make the maintenance of their country's neutrality more difficult.Foreign Policy During the Kreisky Era
Bruno Kreisky, who had served as foreign minister between 1959 and 1966, laid great emphasis on an active, internationalist foreign policy during his tenure as chancellor (1970-83). Kreisky's vision of foreign policy was based on the notion that Austria, as a neutral country, should seek to mediate conflicts between countries and stake out independent and innovative policies on various issues. He offered Vienna as a site for many series of negotiations on nuclear arms reductions and other international matters.
Among Kreisky's more controversial policies was his decision to grant informal diplomatic recognition to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1980. This was an outgrowth of Kreisky's conviction that Israel was stubbornly refusing to recognize the legitimate interests of the Palestinian people. The fact that Kreisky was Jewish gave him a certain credibility in becoming so involved in trying to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Kreisky further surprised the world by receiving Libyan leader Muammar al Qadhafi in Vienna. He also showed his independent approach with his decision that Austria should participate in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, despite the boycott of the games orchestrated by United States president Jimmy Carter in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Austria also did not adhere to the economic boycott of Iran organized by the United States after the seizure of its embassy in Tehran in 1979.
During the 1970s, Austria collaborated extensively with other neutral and nonaligned countries in the UN. Austria developed an independent voting profile, frequently joining with other neutrals such as Sweden to press for action on issues ignored by countries belonging to military alliances. Austria also pursued this kind of diplomacy with the nonaligned countries belonging to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.New Focus on Europe
After Kreisky's departure from the political scene in 1983, Austrian foreign policy became more focused on European matters and less on global issues. This shift was caused partly by the increase in tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, as United States diplomacy under President Ronald Reagan became more confrontational. In this climate, Austria's room to pursue a foreign policy of mediation was more constricted. Concern that the country faced exclusion from the increasing political and economic integration of Europe being pursued by the European Community (EC) was another factor that came to exert strong influence on Austrian diplomacy. The traditional concept of Austrian neutrality had held that membership in the EC was not possible or desirable, even though the EC was not a military alliance. The idea of ceding even limited areas of political and economic sovereignty to a supranational organization was seen as incompatible with neutrality.
As an alternative to the EC, Austria had joined with Britain, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland to form the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in 1960. EFTA was restricted to facilitating trade among its members and did not involve the ceding of sovereign powers. Austria also negotiated a special economic arrangement with the EC in 1972 that allowed for the duty-free exchange of industrial manufactured goods.
By the mid-1980s, the opinion of Austria's political elites had changed in favor of seriously considering the advantages and disadvantages of EC membership. Many argued that Austria could not expect to guarantee its economic future if it remained outside the EC. Two-thirds of Austria's trade was with members of the EC, with the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) by far its largest trading partner. There was also a fear that the country could become isolated within Europe as ideological barriers between East and West were lowered.
A long period of debate among the major parties over EC membership began in 1987, and the cabinet established a working group to examine the issue. It gradually became clear that, despite some misgivings over the expected impact of EC membership in certain areas, the two major parties, the ÖVP and SPÖ, favored applying for entry. The trade unions had some concerns about EC membership's diminishing their strong bargaining powers in the Austrian system of social partnership, but they, too, generally favored joining. There was also widespread concern that the high volume of highway traffic passing through Austria en route to West Germany and Italy was damaging the country's environment. Many Austrians believed that their country's environmental laws were stricter than those of the EC. The priority of protecting the environment led the Green deputies in parliament to oppose joining the EC.
Within the two major parties, there was little concern over the neutrality issue, and government leaders pointed out that although the EC might someday add a military dimension to its structure, for the foreseeable future it would remain primarily an economic union with aspirations of developing greater political unity. The new climate of glasnost in the Soviet Union ushered in by Mikhail Gorbachev led Austrian leaders to expect no objection from Moscow to an Austrian decision to seek EC membership, and this expectation proved true.
The government reached an internal consensus in favor of applying for membership in June 1989, and the following month, Foreign Minister Alois Mock delivered the application to the EC Commission in Brussels. Chancellor Vranitzky emphasized to his countrymen that during the upcoming negotiations with Brussels his government would seek clear understandings on the maintenance of environmental standards and the preservation of Austria's advanced social welfare system. Vranitzky also asserted that the issue of limiting the volume of motor vehicle traffic passing through Austrian territory would be handled separately from the application to join the EC. Austria's application met with a chilly reception from some quarters in Europe, especially from a few politicians who argued that the admission of a neutral country could hinder efforts at coordinating the foreign policies of the EC's members. However, the momentous events of late 1989 and 1990--the freeing of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland from Soviet domination and there unification of Germany--made it clear to all observers that Austrian neutrality would take on a new dimension and might even be jettisoned altogether. The disintegration of the communist system in the Soviet Union in late 1991 further reinforced the impression that neutrality was of little relevance in the new Europe.
In August 1991, after an examination of the Austrian application, the EC issued an initial assessment that was predominantly favorable. By late 1993, negotiations between Austria and the European Union (EU), the organization's name as of November 1993, were continuing over the terms of membership. Most observers expected that the EU and Austria would be able to reach an agreement on Austrian entry and that the country would join the EU in January 1995. The main issues involved limiting international road traffic through Alpine regions because of environmental concerns, subsidies for Alpine farming, and foreign ownership of residences in some parts of Austria. A less certain matter was whether the Austrian government could convince a majority of Austrians to support EU membership. The question of joining the EU will be voted on in a popular referendum because any governmental action that changes the constitution must pass this test. Many opinion polls taken in the early 1990s showed Austrians evenly divided over the merits of joining the EU. In order to ensure approval by the electorate, the Austrian government will have to gain significant concessions from the EU in the negotiations and mount an effective public relations campaign in favor of a yes vote.Regional Issues
Austria has generally enjoyed good relations with its neighbors, although there have been exceptions. The most notable exception has been its relationship with Italy, which was strained by the issue over Southern Tirol during the 1960s. This largely German-speaking region, which belonged to Austria-Hungary prior to World War I, was ceded to Italy in 1919 as a result of the peace negotiations. Until 1992 ethnic Germans in South Tirol, in the present-day region of Trentino-Alto Adige, had to struggle to maintain the measure of autonomy promised to them by the Italian government. Acts of terrorism directed against Italian targets became a serious problem in the 1960s, and Italy accused Austria of not doing enough to capture terrorists whom it claimed were using Austrian territory as a sanctuary. Austria and Italy eventually reached an agreement in 1969 on a timetable for satisfying the demands of the German-speaking South Tiroleans for cultural autonomy. Progress was slow, but in June 1992 an agreement was finally realized that granted the German speakers a greater degree of autonomy. Although not allowed the right to secede from Italy, the cultural rights of German speakers in Trentino-Alto Adige were enhanced with guarantees of education in their own language, greater representation in the civil service, and the right to go to the International Court of Justice in The Hague without permission from the government in Rome. Both Italian and Austrian authorities have declared themselves satisfied with the agreement.
Austria became concerned as the political stability of its neighbor to the south, Yugoslavia, began to unravel in 1991. As it became clear that the republics of Slovenia and Croatia were preparing to break away from the Yugoslav federation, a disagreement arose within the ÖVP-SPÖ coalition over when to grant diplomatic recognition to the new states. In September 1991, Foreign Minister Mock advocated immediate recognition, but Chancellor Vranitzky preferred that Austria wait until other European governments were ready to take the same step. In the end, Vranitzky prevailed in this debate, and recognition was delayed until January 1992, when the EC recognized the newly independent states.
On other important aspects of policy toward the breakup of Yugoslavia, greater unanimity existed between the ÖVP and SPÖ. Foreign Minister Mock was an early advocate of sending a UN peacekeeping force to prevent bloodshed as the various Yugoslav republics sought to establish their independence. In August 1991, Austria became the first UN member to bring to the attention of the Security Council the fact that large numbers of civilians in Slovenia and Croatia were being killed by Serbian forces. Despite their deep concern about the tragedy unfolding in Yugoslavia, both Mock and Vranitzky are in agreement that Austria's neutrality and its proximity to the fighting preclude the inclusion of Austrian troops in any UN peacekeeping force.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, the literature on Austrian politics in English grew considerably. Austria: A Study in Modern Achievement, edited by Jim Sweeney and Josef Weidenholzer, contains a useful collection of articles on Austria's political system and political parties. Modern Austria, edited by Kurt Steiner, covers roughly the same ground, in some cases in more detail, but is somewhat dated because it was published in 1981. Melanie A. Sully's A Contemporary History of Austria is an excellent treatment of Austrian politics during the 1980s. It is particularly good on the interaction between the parties and their internal problems. John Fitzmaurice's Austrian Politics and Society Today covers roughly the same ground as Sully's book and is a readable introduction to Austrian politics. Politics in Austria, edited by Kurt Richard Luther and Wolfgang C. Müller, contains a collection of essays by Austrian political scientists examining the sociological changes in Austria during the postwar era and their impact on the political system. Readers with a knowledge of German should consult Handbuch des politischen Systems Österreichs, edited by Herbert Dachs et al., which contains a wealth of articles on political parties, political institutions, trade unions, foreign policy, and many areas of government policy. Also in German is the very useful Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik, which contains articles by noted specialists and politicians about recent political developments.
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(Various issues of the following periodicals were also used in the preparation of this chapter: DMS Market Intelligent Report; Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: Portugal [London]; Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Daily Report: West Europe; Jane's Defence Weekly [London]; New York Times; and Washington Post.)
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