The government is headed by the Federal Chancellor. He forms the cabinet and coordinates its work. When making decisions, the principle of unanimity applies. The chancellor must take into account the opinion of the vice-chancellor, whose role in the Austrian coalition government is great. Check computerminus for political system of Austria.
Since February 2000, Wolfgang Schüssel (ANP) has been Federal Chancellor. Among his predecessors, B. Kraisky (SPA, 1970–83) and F. Vranitzki (SPA, 1986–97) stand out.
Elections to all bodies of popular representation shall be universal, direct, free and equal by secret ballot. The right to vote is granted to all citizens who have reached the age of 18. Participation in presidential elections is mandatory. Elections to the National Assembly are held according to the proportional system (three-stage proportional system: 1 vote for a certain party list, inside the list – for a certain candidate in the regional and land constituencies). In the National Assembly there are parties that have won a regional mandate or received 4% of the vote throughout Austria. Citizens of other EU countries residing in Austria can also participate in local government elections.
The governments of the federal states are formed by the Landtags (land parliaments). They are led by Landeshauptmann (Prime Minister). The land government decides the most important issues as a collegiate body.
The main parties represented in the parliament: ANP (created in 1945 on the basis of the former Christian Social Party, chairman W. Schüssel), SPA (created in 1945 as the Socialist Party of Austria on the basis of the Social Democratic Party, since 1991 it is again called the Social Democratic Party, chairman A. Gusenbauer), APS (created in 1955 on the basis of the right-wing radical Union of Independents, chairman S. Riss-Passer), the recently created Green Party (chairman of Austria van der Bellen).
One of the characteristic features of the Austrian political system is a highly developed system of alliances and close cooperation between alliances of interests and the government.
The largest trade union organization is the Austrian Trade Union Association (AOP), founded in April 1945. It includes 16 branch trade unions. There is also the Federal Chamber of Labor.
The leading business organizations are the Economic Chamber of Austria and the Conference of Presidents of the Agricultural Chambers.
If the AOP functions as a voluntary association, then membership in the chambers is mandatory. The chambers of labor include all workers and employees of the private sector, the chambers of commerce – all entrepreneurs (except agricultural, who are members of agricultural chambers, and freelancers).
Austria has one of the most effective systems of social partnership, and it is not enshrined in the Constitution or in any law, but functions through the voluntary cooperation of unions.
Maintaining law and order and the rule of law are the main tasks of Austria’s domestic policy. For many decades, social peace was maintained in the country (on the basis of a highly developed welfare state, but not least thanks to a system of social partnership and complicity in governance). Only in 2003, as a result of the planned pension reform, did massive protests and strikes take place – for the first time in many decades.
Increasing in the 1990s the influx of refugees and immigrants led to the strengthening of right-wing radical and nationalist sentiments among a part of the Austrian society, which was expressed by the leader of the APS, J. Haider. The entry of his party into the federal government on February 4, 2000 caused a wave of protests at home and abroad and EU sanctions. On February 29, Haider resigned as chairman of the party. Nevertheless, the problem of right-wing radicalism has become one of the main ones for Austrian domestic politics.
The status of permanent neutrality and refusal to participate in military-political blocs set certain limits for Austria’s foreign policy activity. This did not mean isolationism or “equidistance” from West and East, and did not prevent it from effectively integrating into the Western democratic community. In 1956 Austria became a member of the Council of Europe, and in 1960 a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). 1970s were the highest point of the country’s activity in the UN.
Even greater opportunities for using Austria’s openness emerged after its accession to the EU in 1995. Since February 10, 1995, Austria has been participating in the NATO Partnership for Peace program. By signing the Amsterdam Treaty (1998), Austria actually agrees to participate in the common defense policy of the EU countries.
Central offices of a number of international organizations are located in Vienna, incl. IAEA, UNIDO, OPEC, and the OSCE Secretariat and Permanent Council.
Since the 1970s Austria pursued a policy of “active neutrality”, promoting “diplomacy of contacts” (including between the leaders of the USSR and the USA), supporting political and military detente. In the 1980s-90s. strengthened the European orientation of Austrian foreign policy. In the 1990s, the Austrian foreign policy in relation to the neighboring countries of Central and Eastern Europe became more active.
The armed forces of Austria consist of ground and air forces. Their number is approx. 50 thousand people
Austria has diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation (renewed with the USSR in October 1945; first established on February 25–29, 1924; ceased in March 1938).