The Greens – The Green Alternative

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The Greens – The Green Alternative
Leader Eva Glawischnig
Founded 1993 (Die Grünen)
1986 (Merger of Vereinte Grüne Österreichs and Alternative Liste Österreich)
Headquarters Lindengasse 40
A-1071 Vienna
Ideology Green politics,
Social progressivism
Political position Centre-left
International affiliation Global Greens
European affiliation European Green Party
European Parliament group The Greens–European Free Alliance
Colours Green
National Council:
24 / 183
Federal Council:
4 / 62
European Parliament:
3 / 18
State parliaments
47 / 448
Website
http://www.gruene.at/
Politics of Austria
Political parties
Elections
Part of a series on
Green politics
Sunflower symbol

The Greens – The Green Alternative (German: Die Grünen – Die Grüne Alternative or Die Grünen, also called the Austrian Green Party) is a political party in the Austrian parliament.

The party was formed in 1986 with the name Grüne Alternative, following the merger of the more conservative Green party Vereinte Grüne Österreichs (United Greens of Austria VGÖ, founded 1982) and the more progressive party Alternative Liste Österreichs (Alternative List Austria, ALÖ, founded 1982). Since 1993, the party has carried the official name Die Grünen – Die Grüne Alternative (Grüne), but refers to itself in English as "Austrian Greens". There are still differences between the former members of the old Alternative and VGÖ factions within the party, which is reflected in the different opinions between the national party and the state parties.

Apart from ecological issues such as environmental protection, the Greens also campaign for the rights of minorities and advocate a socio-ecological (ökosozial) tax reform. Their basic values according to their charter in 2001 are: "direct democracy, nonviolence, ecology, solidarity, feminism and self-determination".[1]

The party is a member of the European Green Party.

History[edit]

While the Austrian Green movement began in 1978 with the successful campaign to prevent the opening of the nuclear power plant in Zwentendorf (which had been favoured by Bruno Kreisky's government), the Green Party was born in 1984 during the sit-in protests which prevented the Danube power plant at Hainburg from being built.

Federal level[edit]

In the 1986 Austrian parliamentary elections the Green Party started off with 4.82% of all votes cast and entered parliament with eight National Council mandates. In the early elections to National Council in 2002, the Green Party nationwide received 9.47% of votes, and won 17 mandates to the National Council. At that time, it was the highest number of votes garnered by any European Green party.

When the Greens took their seats in parliament for the first time, they chose to appear somewhat unconventional. They initially refused to adapt their behaviour to that of the other parties; an example of this is their refusal to elect a chairperson (Klubobmann/Klubobfrau) and designated a puppet made out of straw instead. Delegates would appear in parliament dressed in casual wear like jeans and sneakers. Worldwide attention was drawn when the Green delegate Andreas Wabl hoisted a swastika flag on the speakers podium in the Austrian parliament, protesting against then Federal President Kurt Waldheim.

After the national election in 2002, the Greens entered into preliminary negotiations about a possible coalition government with the conservative ÖVP. During negotiations, party leadership was accused of internally black-mailing skeptical members. Negotiations between the two parties were subsequently called off, after the results with the ÖVP were not sufficient. The Green youth organisation Grünalternative Jugend (Green Alternative Youth or GAJ) briefly occupied the rooms of the Green parliamentary club in the Austrian parliament building in protest.

In 2003 three Green federal counsellors formed their own club in the Upper House Federal Council (Bundesrat) of Parliament.

After the 2006 elections the Greens gained four seats and ended up with 21 seats and became the third largest party in Parliament however did not have enough mandates to form a coalition government with either the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) or Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) and became the largest opposition party while the SPÖ and ÖVP formed a coalition government.

Chairpersons since 1986[edit]

The chart below shows a timeline of the Green chairpersons and the Chancellors of Austria. The left green bar shows all the chairpersons (Bundessprecher, abbreviated as "CP") of the Green party, and the right bar shows the corresponding make-up of the Austrian government at that time. The red (SPÖ) and black (ÖVP) colours correspond to which party led the federal government (Bundesregierung, abbreviated as "Govern."). The last names of the respective chancellors are shown, the Roman numeral stands for the cabinets.

Alexander Van der Bellen, chairman 1997–2008

Wolfgang Schüssel Werner Faymann Alfred Gusenbauer Viktor Klima Franz Vranitzky Eva Glawischnig Alexander Van der Bellen Christoph Chorherr Madeleine Petrovic Peter Pilz Johannes Voggenhuber Freda Meissner-Blau

State level[edit]

The Green party also entered the parliaments or assemblies (Landtag) of Austrian states and communal governments. Following is an analysis of the party on the state (Länder) level:

Burgenland[edit]

The Burgenland Greens were able to take their seats in the Landtag (state assembly) for the first time in 2000. The party received 5.49% of the tally, which meant two mandates. In the state elections in 2005 these two seats were reaffirmed with 5.21% received of all votes cast.

Carinthia[edit]

In the southernmost state of Carinthia, different Green parties ran state elections: the KEL/AL in 1984, Anderes Kärnten in 1989 and 1994, and Demokratie 99 in 1999. These parties were however never able to enter the Landtag (state assembly) since the Carinthian voting system requires a party to win a direct mandate in one of the four regional election districts, which means effectively a 10%-threshold in order to enter.
Only in 2004 were the Carinthian Greens finally able to take their seats in the state assembly, where they are represented by the cabaret player Rolf Holub and Barbara Lesjak. On a regional level, for example in the state capital Klagenfurt, the Carinthian Greens have already played a political role for a longer time. In the Klagenfurt city council the Greens are represented by Andrea Wulz, Matthias Koechl, Angelika Hoedl and Reinhold Gasper. Since the local election in 2003 the Klagenfurt Greens were able to take one of nine seats in the proportional city-government, Andrea Wulz is the town councillor for issues relating to women, family matters and social housing projects.

Lower Austria[edit]

In 1998 the Lower Austrian Greens were represented with two delegates in the state assembly. In the state elections in 2003 the Greens received 7.22% and thus won four mandates, which meant they had official club status in the assembly. With Madeleine Petrovic the Lower Austrian Greens have a former federal spokeswoman and one of the most outspoken animal activists of Austria as their leader (Klubobfrau). In 2005 the Lower Austrian Greens managed to win and take their seats in 100 municipal assemblies and as of 2005 had four vice-mayors. Their managing director in Lower Austria is Thomas Huber.

Salzburg[edit]

After the state elections in 1989 the Salzburg Greens had two mandates in the Salzburg state assembly, in 1994 three and in 1999 again two. Under the leadership of Cyriak Schwaighofer the Greens performed under their expectations in the 2004 state elections and could not achieve the desired club status of at least three mandates. As voter-current analyses showed, the small increases in votes were largely due to former voters of the Liberal Forum (LiF), which did not run in the Salzburg elections. In March 2009 they were down from 8% to 7.3%, keeping their two seats in the Parliament of Salzburgerland.

The Bürgerliste (Citizen List) is the common platform of the Greens of the city of Salzburg. Like many other autonomous municipal groups it carries its own name.

Styria[edit]

In 2005, the Styrian Greens had three delegates sitting in the state assembly, Chairperson Ingrid Lechner Sonnek, Edith Zitz and Peter Hagenauer. There are two independent Greens parties: on the one hand the state party, on the other hand there is the Die Grünen - Alternative Liste Graz party for the state capital Graz. In the Graz city-council the Greens are represented by Sigi Binder, Lisa Rücker, Hermann Candussi and Christina Jahn.

Styria has the largest Austrian Green youth organization in Austria, called Grüne Jugend Steiermark (Green Youth Styria). Beside the Green Youth Styria there also exists Austria's first Green student's organization, the ECO Students.

Tyrol[edit]

In Tyrol the Greens (official name: Die Grünen – die Grüne Alternative Tirol) were able to win seats and placed in 1994 Eva Lichtenberger as Austria's first Green state councillor in a local government, responsible for environmental affairs.

The 2003 Tyrolean Landtag (state assembly) elections were the best ever for the Austrian Greens, winning 15.59% of all votes cast. In the capital city of Innsbruck the Greens reached approximately 27% of the vote. The Tyrolean election result also meant that the Greens could for the first time in history nominate a member to the Upper House of Parliament. Since 2003 the Green delegate to the Federal Council (Bundesrat) of Parliament is Eva Konrad, former chairlady of the Austrian National Union of Students (Österreichische HochschülerInnenschaft) of the University of Innsbruck.

The communal elections of 2004 brought a doubling of the mandates for the Tyrolean Greens. City elections in Innsbruck in 2006 were a success for the Greens and they now have 8 of the 40 seats in the parliament of Innsbruck.

In the elections to the European parliament the Tyrolean Greens obtained 17.32%, their best result until then. Eva Lichtenberger subsequently changed her position to become a Member of the European Parliament (MEP). The results in Innsbruck were particularly good: there the Green party received 28.28%, which made it the strongest party, even before the Christian-democratic ÖVP and the social-democratic SPÖ. The Greens were able to score on a number of issues that they have been fighting for years. Besides the social topics above all the problems of transit traffic over the Alps was important.

The Tyrolean Greens have experts on traffic issues with MEP Eva Lichtenberger, the national speaker and club chairperson Georg Willi and the speaker of group of regional of Innsbruck Gerhard Fritz. The issue of transit traffic through the Tyrol is of great importance, because the state is troubled by the massive transit traffic between Germany and Italy over the Brenner Pass. Since the Tyrol sits right in between Germany and Italy, the bulk of the commercial traffic passes through there. This heavy-duty traffic has devastating effects on the fragile alpine environment and decreases the quality of life for the inhabitants. Since the entry to the European Union, Austria had to give up any quota limitations on how much international traffic coming from EU-countries is allowed to pass through its territory.

The Tyrolean Greens accused to federal government of not having pushed for a better deal with the European Union concerning transit-traffic and in effect abandoning the concerns of the citizens. They also heavily criticised the government's failure to negotiate a follow-up of the 1994 transit-treaty signed with the EU. Apart from the Greens, various anti-transit civic movements have formed to protest against the environmental damages caused by the traffic.

Sitting in the National Council is Kurt Grünewald, a Tyrolean member of parliament, as well as the former leader of the Greens Alexander Van der Bellen, who has Tyrolean roots (he spent a part of his youth there and went to high school in Innsbruck).

The results of the Tyrolean Landtag elections:

Results of the Greens in Tyrolean State Assembly elections
Year Percentage of votes received Mandates out of total of 36 seats
2003 15.59% (+7.57) 5 (+2)
1999 8.02% (-2.66) 3 (-1)
1994 10.68% (+2.42) 4 (+1)
1989 8.26% (+5.34) 3 (+3)
1984 2.92% 0

2003 delegates: Sepp Brugger, Maria Scheiber, Uschi Schwarzl, Elisabeth Wiesmüller und Georg Willi (club chairman);
1999 delegates: Maria Scheiber, Elisabeth Wiesmüller, Georg Willi (club chairman);
1994 delegates: Bernhard Ernst, Franz Klug, Max Schneider und Georg Willi (club chairman [Klubobmann]);
1989 delegates: Eva Lichtenberger, Jutta Seethaler, Franz Klug).

Upper Austria[edit]

In 1997 the Upper Austrian Greens successfully entered the Upper Austrian Landtag (state assembly) for the first time. After the state elections in 2003 (state elections in Upper Austria are held every six years, not five like in the other states), the Greens were able to win even further seats. The campaign was already aimed at gaining ministerial seats in the state government. Since the conservative Christian-democratic ÖVP was the strongest party, this would have meant for the Greens to enter into a coalition government with them (the so-called "Schwarz-Grün" [Black-Green] coalition, named after the party-colours). This new political constellation was quite controversial amongst party members on both sides. In the Green party, the leader Rudi Anschober was able to convince party members and after some dealing became state councillor for environmental affairs. The Greens of the state capital of Linz under the leadership of city councillor Jürgen Himmelbauer were most against this black-green project.

On the national level, the Upper Austrian Greens were able to nominate and send to the parliamentary Upper House Federal Council (Bundesrat) councillor Ruperta Lichtenecker.

Vorarlberg[edit]

The Vorarlberg Greens were the first to ever win mandates in an Austrian state assembly election. Already in 1984 they were able to win 13% of the votes in the Vorarlberg state assembly elections, which for that time was an absolute sensation. The charismatic alpine farmer Kaspanaze Simma from Bregenzerwald was the leading candidate, it was mainly due to his efforts why the party was so instantly successful. Because of their strength, the Greens were allowed to form their own parliamentary fraction (Klub), which caused some logistical problems as the newly constructed Landtag building in 1981 only provided space for the traditional three parties (ÖVP, SPÖ, FPÖ), not four. Since the traditional organic farming sector is important in the western Austrian regions, the Greens were able to gain support.

In the following years the Greens were able to consolidate their position by gaining seats on the communal and municipal level. Occasionally they lost their official club status in the state assembly, when they fared poorly from 1999 to 2004. In 2006 the speaker of the Vorarlberg Greens was Johannes Rauch.

The results of the Vorarlberg Landtag elections:

Results of the Greens in the Vorarlberg State Assembly elections
Year Percentage of votes received Mandates out of total of 36 seats
2004 10,2% (+4.17) 4 (+2)
1999 6,03% (-1.73) 2 (-1)
1994 7,76% (+2.58) 3 (+1)
1989 5,18% (-7.82) 2 (-2)
19841 13,00% 4

1 Combined result of ALÖ and VGÖ

Vienna[edit]

The Viennese Greens started nominating candidates in the Vienna Gemeinderat (municipal council or state assembly) in 1983 and were able to enter in 1991. Over the years they have been able to continually gather support. A lot of support has been coming from former Liberal Forum voters, after the liberals failed to enter any legislature. The traditional strongholds in Vienna for the Greens are the districts of Neubau (2005: 43.26%), Josefstadt (32.26%), Alsergrund (29.43%), Mariahilf (28.97%) and Wieden (25.14%).

In the 2001 Gemeinderat elections, the Greens were able to win the majority of a district for the first time. In the district of Neubau they won 32.55% and were able to nominate the Bezirksvorsteher (mayor of the district). The results of 2001 also allowed the Viennese Greens to nominate Stefan Schennach as federal councilor to the Upper House of Parliament (Bundesrat). But despite the strong gains, the Greens were not able to enter into a coalition government with the SPÖ, since the social-democrats were able to win an absolute majority.

The European Parliament election, 2004 were the best for the Viennese Greens so far. From the total tally, they received 22%, which put them ahead of the Christian-democratic ÖVP and placed them on second position behind the SPÖ (37.7%). In Neubau the Greens received 41%. They were also able to win first place in the districts of Wieden, Mariahilf, Josefstadt and Alsergrund.

In the 2005 Gemeinderat elections, the Greens were able to win votes, but missed their target of becoming the second most powerful party and ended up on fourth place, right behind the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ). Because of the different weighing by districts, the Greens received 14 mandates, one more than the FPÖ. They were also able to place another city-councillor. In the districts, the party was able to consolidate their holding on Neubau, as well as win the majority of votes in Josefstadt. With that, the Greens were able to nominate a second Green district-mayor. The second place was won in the districts of Leopoldstadt, Margareten, Mariahilf, Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus and Alsergrund.

The Green delegates to the Viennese Gemeinderat or Landtag as of 2006 were: Maria Vassilakou (club-chairlady [Klubobfrau]), Waltraut Antonov, Heidi Cammerlander, Christoph Chorherr, Sabine Gretner, Susanne Jerusalem, Alev Korun, Rüdiger Maresch, Martin Margulies, Sigrid Pilz, Ingrid Puller, Marie Ringler, Marco Schreuder, Claudia Sommer-Smolik. The two city-councillors are David Ellensohn and Monika Vana.

The 2010 results meant that the SPÖ was unable to hold the majority of seats in the Vienna city council and therefore had to rule together with the Greens performing for the first time as coalition partner. The current vice-governor/vice-mayor of Vienna is Maria Vassilakou.

The results of the Viennese Gemeinderat elections:

Results of the Greens in the Viennese State Assembly elections
Year Percentage of votes received Mandates out of total of 100 seats Further information
2010 12,64% (-1.99) 11 (-3) 1 Federal Councillor, 1 City Councillor
2005 14,63% (+2.18) 14 (+3) 1 Federal Councillor, 2 City Councillors
2001 12,45% (+4.51) 11 (+4) 1 Federal Councillor, 1 City Councillor
1996 7,94% (-1.14) 7 (±0) 1 City Councillor
1991 9,08% (+4.68) 7 (+7) 1 City Councillor
1987 4,4% (+1.9) 0
19831 2,5% (+2.5) 0

1 ran as Alternative Liste Wien (ALW)

Organisation[edit]

In 2004 the Greens had about 3,000 members nation-wide, although at present there are no uniform regulations for membership. Apart from the members, the Greens rely on a large number of volunteers. The party used to function on the principles of grassroots democracy (Basisdemokratie) and rotation principle (Rotationsprinzip), but this was stopped in the course of the time. The last basic-democratic element is the Urabstimmung, which is a vote on any issue that can be initiated with the petition of at least 100 members. As of 2003 however, no such vote has taken place.

The highest body is the Bundeskongress (Federal Congress), which convenes at least once a year. All state organisations send delegates, also the immigrants-organisation is allowed to send delegates as "the tenth Austrian state". The Federal Congress decides the electoral lists for the National Council elections or elections to the European parliament. The congress also elects the federal spokesperson (BundesprecherIn). The congress also decides the party program and sets the party guidelines.

The Bundesvorstand (Federal Board of Trustees) has in the last few years developed itself into the actual decision-making centre. It meets at least once a week, mostly on Tuesdays, and determines the guidelines of the daily politics. The board also has decides over the party finances. The extended federal board of trustees (Erweiterter Bundesvorstand) consists of a smaller number of delegates from each state and meets at least once a month. It takes care of the implementation of the party-guidelines, which were set by the party congress. It also chooses the representatives of the party spokesperson.

The state organisations (Landesorganisationen) are for their most part organised similarly: There are state meetings, which sometimes convene as a members meeting or a delegates meeting. Similar to the Federal Board of Trustees, there are the State Board of Trustees (Landesvorstände). The party charter also allows for each state group to hold a vote on basic issues as well that affect the whole party.

Independently in the National Council there also exists a Green National Council Club (faction), which can independently specify its guidelines. In the last years however an increasing fusion of the work between party and its club was noticeable. Michaela Sburny, successor of Franz Raft since June 2004 as federal executive manager of the Greens, was allowed to keep her National Council mandate. This means she is allowed to hold two offices at the same time, something that was frowned upon by the Greens previously.

There are different Green or Greenish organisations within the party and associated with it. These include:

The education and training of new Green politicians is done by the Grüne Bildungswerkstatt, which is an independent voluntary association. The Grüne Bildungswerkstatt is financed by the republic, as regulated by Austrian law for the equal treatment of all parliamentary parties.

Electoral results[edit]

Parliament (Parlament)[edit]

National Council (Nationalrat)
Election year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Government
1983 159,616 3.4
0 / 183
0
1986 234,028 4.8 (#4)
8 / 183
Increase 8 in opposition
1990 225,084 4.8 (#4)
10 / 183
Increase 2 in opposition
1994 338,538 7.3 (#4)
13 / 183
Increase 3 in opposition
1995 233,208 4.8 (#5)
9 / 183
Decrease 4 in opposition
1999 342,260 7.4 (#4)
14 / 183
Increase 5 in opposition
2002 464,980 9.5 (#4)
17 / 183
Increase 3 in opposition
2006 520,130 11.1 (#3)
21 / 183
Increase 4 in opposition
2008 509,936 10.4 (#5)
20 / 183
Decrease 1 in opposition
2013 582,657 12.4 (#4)
24 / 183
Increase 4 in opposition

European Parliament[edit]

Election year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/–
1996 258,250 6.8 (#4)
1 / 21
1999 260,273 9.3 (#4)
2 / 21
Increase 1
2004 322,429 12.9 (#4)
2 / 18
Steady 0
2009 284,505 9.9 (#5)
2 / 17
2 / 19
Steady 0
Steady 0
2014 410,089 14.5 (#4)
3 / 18
Increase 1

Prominent members[edit]

Among the most notable founding members and mentors are or were Professor Alexander Tollmann, the painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the late actor Herbert Fux, the mayor of Steyregg Josef Buchner (the first Green mayor in Austria – in 1987 excluded from the Green parliamentary club), Freda Meissner-Blau and Günther Nenning, with Nobel prize laureate Konrad Lorenz supporting the 1984 protests at Hainburg.

Today, Green politicians include (in alphabetical order)

Members of the European Parliament[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Austrian Green Party at Wikimedia Commons