Ten years after the end of the Second World
War, the Allies agreed to cancel the occupation of
Austria. Until 1966, the country was ruled by a
coalition between the bourgeois People's Party (ÖVP) and
the Socialist Party (SPÖ). In the new election in 1986,
support for the right-wing populist FPÖ almost doubled,
with Jörg Haider as leader. Then the government switched
between ÖVP, SPÖ and FPÖ. In 1995 Austria became a
member of the EU.
On May 15, 1955, the so-called State Treaty between
Austria and the victorious powers of World War II were
signed in Vienna, France, the United Kingdom, the Soviet
Union and the United States. Austria pledged not to join
Germany and accepted a number of defense restrictions,
including the ban on the manufacture and possession of
weapons of mass destruction.
The treaty restored Austria's sovereignty and in
October 1955 the last occupation troops left the
country. Then a law was passed that made Austria a
neutral country. The time after the state treaty is
counted as the "second republic".
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Austria. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
From 1947 to 1966, Austria was ruled by a "big
coalition" between the two dominant parties, the
bourgeois People's Party (ÖVP) and the Socialist Party (SPÖ).
Government cooperation gradually developed into a
so-called Proporz system, which meant that the political
and administrative positions were distributed
proportionally between the two parties. The system
eventually came to penetrate deep into Austrian society.
In parallel, the social partnership was established (see
After the 1966 election, a pure OVP government took
office, which nevertheless pursued a policy in line with
that of the former coalition.
The economy is growing
The economy expanded sharply during the 1960s until
the early 1970s. Important factors behind the
development were the labor peace that characterized the
labor market as well as the Austrian shilling's
connection to the German soil, which contributed to the
shilling remaining stable despite worries in the foreign
After the 1970 elections, the Socialists formed a
minority government with Bruno Kreisky as Chancellor. In
1971, a new election was held based on a new electoral
law and SPÖ then got its own majority in parliament.
Kreisky, who spent the war years in exile in Sweden, in
many respects pursued a policy of Swedish social
democracy as an example. A number of social reforms were
In the 1983 election, SPÖ lost its own majority.
After the retreat, Bruno Kreisky resigned and was
succeeded by party mate Fred Sinowatz. He formed a
coalition government together with the Freedom Party (FPÖ),
which had previously been kept out of all government
cooperation since it was considered to represent Nazi
and German nationalist movements.
The debate in and about Austria came to be
characterized by events related to the Nazi era, which
showed how little the Austrians had done with their
past. Prior to the 1986 presidential election, it was
revealed that the UPP-backed candidate Kurt Waldheim,
the former UN secretary general, had detailed details of
his past during the war. He was then an officer of a
German alliance that sent many Jews, partisans and
allied soldiers to death. Despite the resurrection,
Waldheim won the election. The result of the election
resulted in Fred Sinowatz resigning as Chancellor and
being replaced by Finance Minister Franz Vranitzky, also
he socialist. Waldheim was portrayed in many countries,
including the United States.
The new government appointed an international
commission to investigate whether Waldheim committed a
crime during the Second World War. The Commission
concluded that he had not personally committed any war
crimes, but Waldheim was nevertheless declared to have a
moral guilt because he had known of the atrocities that
had taken place. In the 1992 presidential election,
Waldheim did not run for re-election. New federation
president became ÖVP's candidate Thomas Klestil.
Support is increasing for FPÖ
In the 1980s, economic policy with large government
spending began to have negative effects. The budget
deficit increased while industrial competitiveness
decreased, exports stagnated and growth slowed. The
coalition between SPÖ and FPÖ broke down in 1986 when
right-wing nationalist Jörg Haider was appointed new
leader of FPÖ. In the new election that year, support
for FPÖ nearly doubled to almost 10 percent, while the
Greens for the first time joined the National Council.
Both SPÖ and ÖVP suffered electoral losses but after the
election formed a new large coalition.
The government initiated financial tightening and a
restructuring of the state industrial sector. At the
same time, the upheavals in Eastern Europe, which led to
the fall of the communist regimes, gave Austria more
room for maneuver to be closer to the western countries.
In 1989, Austria submitted an application for membership
of the then EC (today's EU).
In the 1990 election, ÖVP made its worst result so
far, but the party still remained in the government
together with SPÖ.
During the 1990s, attempts were again made to settle
with Austria's Nazi past. When Chancellor Franz
Vranitzky announced in 1991 that many Austrians had a
co-responsibility for what had happened during the
Hitler era, this was the first official position taken
on this issue. In 1992, it became punishable to deny the
Nazi genocide during the Second World War and a few
years later an Austrian President, Thomas Klestil,
visited Israel for the first time. The following year
Parliament established a fund for financial compensation
for the 30,000 who survived the concentration camps or
managed to escape Nazism.
Negotiations with the EU began in 1993 and in June
1994, 67 percent of voters voted in a referendum to
join the Union. Austria became an EU member on 1 January
1995 (at the same time as Sweden and Finland).
FPÖ was strengthened again in the 1994 parliamentary
elections, but SPÖ and ÖVP could still form a large
coalition. Already the following year, however, new
elections were held as the government parties could not
agree on the budget. After the new election, they
succeeded in agreeing on an economic austerity plan and
government cooperation could continue. The cuts helped
to reduce the government debt and the budget deficit,
which was required for Austria to be a member of the
EU's Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) from the
FPÖ and ÖVP form a government
In the 1999 parliamentary elections, the FPÖ
continued its advancement and passed the ÖVP as the
country's second largest party, albeit with a minimal
margin. SPÖ retained first place but made its worst
choice since World War II. Now the attempts to reach a
large coalition failed and in February 2000 instead
formed the FPÖ and ÖVP government, with the ÖVP's
Wolfgang Schüssel as Chancellor. This happened since the
FPÖ gave up the opposition to the EU's enlargement to
the east. The government program contained no
anti-immigrant elements and Haider demanded no
ministerial post but remained as governor of Carinthia.
Before President Klestil approved the new government,
he pushed for the party leaders to sign a special
foreword in which they, among other things, professed
In the outside world, it was a great astonishment
when it became clear that FPÖ would join the government.
Israel called home its ambassador and the EU countries
severed all diplomatic contacts at a higher level with
Austria. Shortly after the government took office,
Haider surprisingly resigned as party leader for FPÖ.
His hope was that criticism would then subside. The post
of party leader was taken over by Susanne Riess-Passer,
Deputy Chancellor of the Government. In September 2000,
the other EU countries interrupted Austria's isolation.
Internal disputes and public disputes within FPÖ led
to a decline in voter support for the party. Through
populist campaigns, often in violation of government
policy, Jörg Haider sought to regain popularity.
After severe floods in the summer of 2002, a dispute
arose between Haider and several FPÖ ministers on how to
finance the reconstruction. Finally, Riess-Passer and
two other FPÖ ministers chose to resign, and Riess-Passer
also left the party leader post. The crisis caused the
government to collapse.
When the new elections were held in November 2002,
ÖVP went strong and became the largest party for the
first time in more than 30 years, with 42 percent of the
vote. The big loser of the election became FPÖ, which
lost two-thirds of its voters. The two traditionally
dominant parties were - temporarily as it turned out -
back on nearly 80 percent voter support. But Chancellor
Schüssel nevertheless formed a new government with the
FPÖ. Haider continued to act in conflict with the
government's policy, among other things he protested
against the government's planned pension reform (see
Labor market and Social conditions).
In the April 2004 presidential election, Heinz
Fischer won over the ÖVP candidate and became Austria's
first Social Democratic head of state in 18 years.
The enlargement of the EU with ten new Member States
in May 2004 was a hot political issue. Not least, the EU-skeptical
FPÖ warned, among other things, of increased
immigration, greater competition in the labor market and
higher unemployment. The government sought to address
the unrest, among other things, by restricting workers
from the new Eastern and Central European EU members
when it came to the possibility of getting Austrian
In April 2005, Jörg Haider announced that he had left
the FPÖ and formed a new party, the Federation for the
Future of Austria (BZÖ). With him he had the FPÖ's three
ministers and most of the FPÖ's MPs. The new BZÖ could
thus easily take over FPÖ's role in the government and
continue in coalition with ÖVP. FPÖ continued as a party
with Heinz-Christian Strache as party leader.
A "big coalition" gains power
Prior to the parliamentary elections in October 2006,
BZÖ and FPÖ competed for how much asylum policy would be
tightened, while ÖVP took on the honor for the economic
development praised by the outside world. The Social
Democrats suffered from adversity following a scandal
involving the union-owned bank Bawag. The bank had
speculated away € 1.6 billion and there were suspicions
that some of the money had gone to SPÖ. Later, people in
the bank's management were sentenced to prison
Despite the banking scandal, SPÖ retained its place
as the largest party, while ÖVP lost support compared to
the previous elections. FPÖ strengthened its position
slightly while the new BZÖ with a small margin managed
the four percent block. The result was a return to the
traditional order: a large coalition. The ÖVP leader
Wolfgang Schüssel set tough conditions for
co-government. Only in early 2007 did a coalition
government join with Social Democrats leader Alfred
Gusenbauer as the Chancellor.
Gusenbauer faced criticism early in the SPÖ rally for
having made too much concessions to the government
partner. In 2007, the SPÖ leadership broke the election
promise to tear up a controversial decision taken by the
previous government to buy 18 Eurofighter fighter
aircraft. The Minister of Defense announced that the
number of aircraft had been reduced to 15 and that the
price had been reduced by EUR 400 million, but that the
purchase would nevertheless be lost.
The SPÖ voters' dissatisfaction with Gusenbauer was
illustrated by poor results in various state elections.
In June 2008, Gusenbauer chose to hand over the party
leader post to Minister of Infrastructure Werner Faymann.
The contradictions between the government parties
deepened when the SPÖ promised that all EU treaties
would henceforth be approved by the people in
referendums. SPÖ thus completely changed its line - just
a few months earlier, the party had participated when
Parliament approved the EU's Lisbon Treaty. The
criticism was seen by critics as a populist attempt to
win votes among EU-negative Austrians. Government
cooperation cracked in the joints and in July it
When the new elections were held in September 2008,
both parties backed down. The election was a success for
the two right-wing populist parties, which received a
total of 28 percent of the vote, slightly more than the
FPÖ achieved in the 1999 election.
Just two weeks after the election, BZÖ leader Jörg
Haider was killed when he drove off the road in a
traffic accident in Carinthia, where he was governor.
Socialist leader Faymann excluded cooperation with
the two populist parties. Negotiations for a new
government were drawn and only in December could Faymann
take over as Chancellor of the new coalition with the
ÖVP. This time, government cooperation came to run more
Despite this, the government parties had few
successes in the state elections. All in all, it went
best for FPÖ, which in many places doubled its voter
support. For the competitor on the right side BZÖ,
things went much worse after Haider's death. The local
BZÖ department in his home state therefore decided in
2009 to rename himself to the Freedom in Carinthia (FPK)
and form a pact with FPÖ. FPK later joined FPÖ.
In the 2010 presidential election, Heinz Fischer was
re-elected with 79 percent of the vote. However, since
ÖVP did not stand with any candidate and the turnout was
unusually low, it was not seen as a strength message for
SPÖ. In second place came FPÖ's Barbara Rosenkranz who,
before the election, aroused strong emotions when she
criticized the law that bans Nazi organizations and
denial of the Holocaust.
Corruption scandals are discovered
The growing debt crisis in Europe became a hot
domestic political issue that contributed to growing EU
dissatisfaction. Many Austrians objected to EU countries
taking emergency measures to distressed euro countries
such as Greece. FPÖ, which was negative to the currency
cooperation in itself, won increased support through its
resistance to the efforts. At the same time, the Social
Democrats had been forced to give up the demand that all
EU treaties should be accepted by referendums because
otherwise the OVP threatened to dissolve the coalition.
Government parties' support among voters also failed
as economic growth chopped and unemployment rose. The
government was perceived as weak in action and did not
come to terms with reforms, including administration and
education, which have long been discussed.
In addition, there were a number of corruption
scandals that erupted in 2011. They mainly concerned
transactions under the bourgeois ÖVP-FPÖ government in
2000–2007. Suspicions of fraud, bribery and anti-dumping
deals for millions amounted not least to the partly
state-owned Telekom Austria, as well as the sale of
apartments from the state-owned real estate company
Buwog. A number of former ministers and high-ranking
business representatives became the subject of legal
Accusations were also made against the incumbent
government when the Social Democratic Chancellor Faymann
was suspected of using taxpayers' money to effect
positive media reporting during his time as Minister of
The scandals prompted the former Chancellor of the
Interior, Schüssel, to leave his seat in Parliament and
politics, despite himself not being suspected of
corruption. He said he wanted to facilitate the judicial
More scandals surrounded FPÖ / BZÖ in the state of
Carinthia. Among other things, shoddy money figured in a
bank account in Liechtenstein, as well as information
that Jörg Haider used funds from the regional bank Hypo
Alpe Adrias for political projects and for financing
both his own party and the coalition partner ÖVP. Jörg
Haider, who had died, could not be held responsible, but
a high-ranking party representative was sentenced to
prison and the ÖVP leader in Carinthia resigned.
In the fall of 2011, a parliamentary committee was
appointed to investigate the links of high-ranking
politicians to the scandal. The chairman was appointed a
party member from the Greens, the only party that had no
connection to the scandals. The committee held several
notable hearings, but was shut down after a year of the
parties involved, who were hardly benefited from having
their dirty laundry washed in public.
However, court proceedings continued. In 2013, former
Interior Minister Ernst Strasser was sentenced to prison
for receiving bribes recently as an EU parliamentarian.
Several former managers of Telekom Austria also received
prison sentences. In several other cases, the
investigations went on over time. It was not until 2016
that news was brought against the former Finance
Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser and several others for the
Against the backdrop of the corruption scandals, the
public's confidence in politicians dropped to bottom
levels. The government parties, with the support of the
Greens, passed a law package in June 2012 that would
counter corruption and tightened the rules for party and
campaign financing, something that had previously been
called for by EU bodies.
New big coalition after the 2013 elections
The dissatisfaction with the establishment paved the
way for new party formation and it became increasingly
clear that the political landscape was irrevocably
changing. The traditional parties in the big coalition
did manage to remain in power after the elections in
September 2013. But it was with distress and scarcity.
Together, the Social Democrats and the Conservative
People's Party got just over 50 percent of the vote -
for both, the result was the worst since World War II.
Only after lengthy negotiations on, among other
things, the minimum wage, the budget and the scope of
structural reform could SPÖ and ÖVP agree and Chancellor
Werner Faymann form a new government, in December 2013.
In the battle over the right-wing populist voices,
the FPÖ liberals now seemed to have outmaneuvered the
outbreak in BZÖ. FPÖ received just over 20 percent of
the vote, while BZÖ failed to get up to the 4 percent
required to take a seat in the National Council.