15 October 2017
Result: Sebastian Kurz’s OVP won 31.5% of the vote; SPO 26.9%; FPO 26%; NEOS 5.3%; PILZ 4.4%. The Greens did not reach the electoral threshold. Kurz, the new Chancellor, reached a coalition agreement with the FPO, who will enter the government for the first time since 2000. The far-right party will hold the Vice-Chancellery as well as the Interior, Foreign and Defense ministries.
- Bicameral parliament in a federal republic: National Council (Nationalrat, 183 members) and Federal Council (Bundesrat, 61 members but varying in size).
- National Council is elected every 5 years through open party lists, in a proportional representation system; voting age is 16; there are 9 multi-member constituencies (representing the 9 states) and 39 local electoral districts, most of which are also multi-member.
- Parties must meet a 4% vote threshold to enter parliament, or get one seat in one of the 39 local constituencies.
- Current coalition: Social Democratic Party (SPÖ, holds the Chancellery) and Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP, holds the foreign ministry).
- The Bundesrat is elected indirectly through provincial assemblies and has limited powers.
- 16 parties running
- Main parties:
- List Sebastian Kurz – The New People’s Party (ÖVP): previously the Austrian People’s Party; center-right; conservative, free-market; hardening stance on immigration, cap benefits for foreigners; pro-EU.
- Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ): center-left; social democracy, increased public spending; more open to immigration and keeping asylum laws as they are; pro-EU.
- Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ): far-right; populism; economic liberalism but support for welfare state; anti-immigration; Euroskeptic; pro-Russia.
- The Greens (Grüne): center-left; environmentalism; socially liberal; pro-EU.
- The New Austria and Liberal Forum (NEOS): center; liberalism, lower taxes; socially liberal; pro-EU.
- Peter Pilz’s List (PILZ): left-wing; social justice, increased public spending, redistribution; socially liberal; critical of migration/asylum policy.
Impact on U.S. Interests
- Total trade in goods in 2016 reached $14.66 billion; in 2016, the U.S. was Austria’s 2nd export destination;
- The U.S. is Austria’s 3rd largest investor; Austrian companies employ 25,000 Americans;
- Austria is part of the anti-ISIL coalition; Austrian military pilots and mechanics have received training in the U.S.; it contributed troops to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.
Key Issues to Watch
- The far-right FPÖ party nearly won the presidency in 2016 and could come back into government as a junior partner with the ÖVP, the same coalition that ruled from 2000-2007.
- Immigration is the biggest issue in this election. As Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz worked to close the “Balkan route” in 2016, and has appropriated some of the FPÖ’s talking points on a harsher immigration policy.
- Austria has been highly critical of the EU accession talks with Turkey, Both SPÖ Chancellor Kern and ÖVP Foreign Minister Kurz have ruled out Turkish membership in the EU.
- The campaign has been particularly acrimonious, topped off by a ‘dirty tricks’ scandal two weeks ago, where a racist Facebook ad was put out by an SPÖ campaign operative and shocked the electorate; the party’s Secretary General resigned on September 30 due to the backlash.
- Russian influence has grown more visible: the FPÖ signed a cooperation agreement with President Putin’s United Russia party in December 2016 and seeks to lift European sanctions on Russia (estimated to have cost Austria €1bn). Although the current government supports current EU sanctions, it criticized the June 2017 US sanctions bill due to its potential impact on Austrian firms involved in constructing a second natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany (Nord Stream 2).
Data source: Research Affairs/Österreich
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