POLITICAL SYSTEM

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Austria is a parliamentary republic based on the principles of democracy and separation of powers. The highest representative of the State is the President of the Republic, whose mandate lasts for six years. The two chambers of parliament are the National Council (Nationalrat) and the Federal Council (Bundesrat). These are responsible under the legislation. The presidency of the federal government is exercised by the Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler).

FUNDAMENTALS OF PUBLIC LAW
The Federal Constitution, the State Contract, the Neutrality Law, as well as the Act of Accession to the EU constitute the public law foundations of the Republic. Austria has been a member of the European Union since 1.1.1995 (EU).

NATIONAL COUNCIL
Currently, five parties form part of the National Council: the two governing parties are the Austrian People’s Party and the Austrian Greens. The other parties represented in parliament are the Austrian Social Democratic Party, the Austrian Freedom Party and NEOS. Austria is currently governed by a coalition between the ÖVP and GRÜNE. According to the constitution, the next elections for the National Council are scheduled for 2024.

REGIONAL STATES
As a Federal State, Austria is made up of nine Regional States. Vienna, the federal capital, is also one of the nine Regional States. Each of the nine Regional States is administered by a regional government, at the head of which is the person responsible for the State.

RECENT HISTORY AND POLITICAL EVOLUTION: In 1867, Austria is excluded from the German Confederation and forms the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Habsburgs, who had ruled the territory for centuries, lost the throne as a result of Austria’s defeat in the First World War (1914-18) and the subsequent proclamation of the Republic (1919).

In 1938, the country was annexed to the German Third Reich and, in 1945, occupied by the Allied Forces. It is now divided into American, French, British and Soviet zones. On May 15, 1955, however, the State Treaty re-establishes independence and assigns permanent neutrality to the country, which still joins the UN.

In 1986, former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim was elected President of the Republic, but during his tenure he had to deal with accusations about his Nazi past. The leader announced in 1991 that he would not run for re-election, stepping down in 1992.

In the 1990s, the most outstanding political fact was the rise of Jörg Haider’s populist Liberal Party of Austria (FPÖ), with a clearly xenophobic line. The legislative elections of 3 October 1999 represented a turning point in Austrian political life, with major and important international repercussions.

The FPÖ became the second most voted party with 27.22% of the vote, after the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) with 33.9%, while the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) reached 26.9% . Austria joined the European Union (EU) on January 1, 1995, and on May 3, 1998 it joined the group of 11 countries that, on January 1, 2002, adopted the euro as their official and single currency.

ÖVP leader Wolfgang Schüssel reaches an agreement with Haider to form a coalition Executive and takes over the Chancellery. At the same time that the new Cabinet took office, the 14 community partners announced the suspension of bilateral contacts with Austria, as well as the United States and Israel, due to the xenophobic and ultra-conservative nature of the new government.

Such EU measures were maintained until 12 September 2000.

On January 1, 2006, six years after the several-month diplomatic blockade imposed by the other EU member states, Austria assumed the rotating presidency of the continental bloc, with Schüssel as chancellor. The legislative elections of 1 October 2006 were won by the SPÖ, under the leadership of Alfred Gusenbauer, who became Chancellor at the head of a coalition Executive with the ÖVP, in January of the following year.

Since the beginning of its term, the Government has been involved in tensions between the two parties, which have caused repeated crises that culminated in June 2008 with the SPÖ announcing a change of direction in its policy towards the EU. The vice-chancellor and new head of the ÖVP, Wilhelm Molterer, announced the break in the government and the call for early elections. EFE