Austria is a parliamentary republic and a
federal state with nine states. The president has
traditionally held a ceremonial role while the
government has the executive power. The voting age for
national elections is only 16 years. The country has a
long tradition of co-governments between the
Conservative People's Party (ÖVP) and the Social
The president is elected in general elections every
six years and may be re-elected once. A second ballot is
held if no candidate receives at least half of the votes
in the first round. On paper, the head of state can
dismiss the government and dissolve parliament. The
President appoints the Head of Government, the
Chancellor, and on his proposal other
Ministers. In practice, the government has the executive
Total population and chart of Austria for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
Parliament consists of two chambers: the National
Council and the Federal Council. The National
Council has 183 members who are elected in
direct proportional elections for a term of five years.
A block of 4 percent applies for parties to fit in the
chamber. The Chancellor and the Government must have the
confidence of the National Council.
The Federal Council has 61 members
elected indirectly by the state parliaments - between 3
and 12 members per state, depending on the population.
The Federal Council represents the interests of the
Länder against the federal power. It may delay
legislative proposals that have been approved by the
National Council but do not have any veto rights.
Members have a term of five or six years and are
gradually replaced after elections in the states.
Austria was the first country in the EU in 2007 to
lower the voting age from 18 to 16 years. At the same
time, the National Council's term of office was extended
from four to five years.
Major changes in the constitution must be submitted
to decisive referendums. The same applies to minor
constitutional amendments if at least a third of the
National Council so requires.
The nine states (federal states) - Burgenland,
Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg,
Styria, Tyrol (Tirol), Vorarlberg and Vienna - have
far-reaching autonomy with their own elected parliaments
and governments. The regional governments are led by a
head of state or head of state (head of state) appointed
by the state parliament. The states are in turn divided
into districts and municipalities.
The judicial system is divided into local courts,
state and district courts and four higher state courts.
The Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court and an
Administrative Court constitute the highest level.
Two parties have dominated Austrian politics since
the end of the Second World War: the bourgeois
People's Party (Österreichisches Volkspartei,
ÖVP) and the Social Democrats
(Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs, SPÖ,
which until 1991 was called the Socialist Party). For a
long time, they had the support of just over 80 percent
of the electorate and for long periods have co-governed
in so-called large coalitions. But support for the
parties has plummeted in recent years.
The major downturn came in the 1990s, when the
populist Freedom Party (Freiheitliche
Partei Österreichs, FPÖ) on the far
right side advanced. Former party leader Jörg Haider
utilized immigration-critical sentiments and widespread
politician disdain in society. In principle, the FPÖ
became evenly matched with the ÖVP in the 1999 elections
and the two parties then formed a bourgeois government.
During the reign, Haider and large parts of the party
leadership broke out of the FPÖ and formed a new party,
the Confederation of Austria's Future (Bündnis
Zukun Österreich, BZÖ), which took over
the place as government party. Heinz-Christian Strache
became the new leader of FPÖ. After the 2006 elections,
both FPÖ and BZÖ ended up in opposition. When Haider
later died in a car accident, his party lost voter
support. In the 2013 election, BZÖ fell out of
parliament at the same time as FPÖ again grew stronger.
In the 2017 election, FPÖ made strong progress and
subsequently formed a coalition government with ÖVP.
However, the government was already divided after a year
and a half since Heinz-Christian Strache was forced to
resign as vice-chancellor due to a scandal (see Current
policy). FPÖ was severely affected by the scandal and
lost a full ten percentage points in the new election
held in September 2019, while ÖVP strengthened its
position in the National Council.
Team Stronach for Austria (Team
Stronach for Austria) was formed in 2012 by the then
80-year-old multi-billionaire Frank Stronach. He had
returned to his home country after 60 years in Canada
where he founded one of the world's largest automobile
companies. When BZÖ did not want to receive funding that
Stronach offered, he formed his own right-wing populist
and EU-critical party. A few years after the election,
however, several of the party's parliamentarians had
changed party, to the ÖVP. Team Stronach did not stand
in the 2017 parliamentary elections.
Austria-Liberal Forum (Das Neue
Österreich-Liberalen Forum, Neos) was
also formed in 2012, by a mix of former OPP supporters,
independent liberals and environmentalists who wanted to
end the political "deadlock" with a new form of
grassroots democracy. Neos is a liberal and EU-friendly
party. At first it was only called Neos but merged in
2014 with another party, the Liberal Forum.
Green Party The Greens (Die Grünen)
is represented in Parliament since 1986 and has
increased its vote share in the last elections. The
Greens took part in important negotiations with the
government in the early 2010s, including on party
financing. The party resigned from Parliament after the
2017 elections, but came in fourth place in the new 2019
A distinguishing feature of the political system in
Austria is the so-called social partnership
(Sozialpartnerschaft). It is informal cooperation - it
is not regulated by law - that gives the social partners
a central role in political decision-making. The system
contributes to political and economic stability and, not
least, peace in the labor market. The workers are
represented by two organizations: the union central
organization ÖGB and by the Workers' Chamber, both of
which are close to SPÖ. Employers are represented by a
Chamber of Commerce and a Farmers Chamber, both of which
have close ties to ÖVP. Membership in the three chambers
is compulsory for employees, entrepreneurs and farmers.
Membership in ÖGB is voluntary (see also Labor Market).