Austrian People's Party
|Austrian People's Party
|Founded||17 April 1945|
|Preceded by||Christian Social Party|
|International affiliation||International Democrat Union|
|European affiliation||European People's Party|
|European Parliament group||European People's Party|
The Austrian People's Party (German: Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) is a Christian democratic and conservative political party in Austria. A successor to the Christian Social Party of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is similar to the Christian Democratic Union of Germany in terms of ideology, with both operating as catch-all parties of the centre-right. The Austrian People's Party was founded immediately following the reestablishment of the Federal Republic of Austria in 1945, and since then has been one of the two largest Austrian political parties with the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ). In federal governance, the ÖVP is currently the smaller partner in a coalition government with the SPÖ, with ÖVP party leader Michael Spindelegger as Vice-Chancellor of Austria.
The Austrian People's Party represents conservatism, running on a platform of traditions and stability of social order. In particular, it is expressly uninterested in strengthening Austria's incomplete separation of church and state, appearing to be somewhat sceptical of affirmative action, rights for sexual minorities, and other forms of social engineering. For most of its existence, the People's Party has explicitly defined itself as Catholic and anti-socialist; the ideal of subsidiarity as defined by the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno is generally considered one of the historical cornerstones of its agenda.
For the first election after World War II, ÖVP presented itself as the Austrian Party („die österreichische Partei“), was decidedly anti-Marxist and regarded itself as the Party of the Centre („Partei der Mitte“). The ÖVP held permanently power either alone or in so-called Black-Red coalition with the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) until 1970, when the SPÖ formed a minority government with the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ). The ÖVP's economic policies during the era can be described as upholding a social market economy.
Nowadays, with regard to economic policy, the Austrian People's Party is advocating economic liberalization, endorsing the reduction of Austria's relatively large public sector, welfare reform, and general deregulation. With regard to foreign affairs, it strongly supports European integration. Over the last two decades, the People's Party has also adopted a more environmentalist stance than other similar conservative parties.
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The Austrian People's Party is popular mainly amongst white-collar workers, large and small business owners, and farmers. In particular, it is backed by a majority of Austria's civil servants, a remarkably large and influential group due to the size and scope of Austria's government bureaucracy. Austria's blue-collar workers, by comparison, tend to endorse the Social Democratic Party and the Freedom Party. All in all, People's Party supporters are comparatively educated and affluent.
The Austrian People's Party is the successor of the Christian Social Party, a staunchly conservative movement founded in 1893 by Karl Lueger, mayor of Vienna and highly controversial right-wing populist. Most of the members of the Austrian People's party during its founding belonged to the former Fatherland Front, which was led by chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, also a member of the Christian Social Party before the Anschluss. While still sometimes honored by ÖVP members for resisting Hitler, the regime built by Dollfuß was authoritarian in nature and has been dubbed as "Austrofascism". In its present form, the People's Party was established immediately after the restoration of Austria's independence in 1945; it has been represented in both the Federal Assembly ever since. In terms of Federal Assembly seats, the People's Party has consistently been the strongest or second-strongest party; as such, it has led or at least been a partner in most Austria's federal cabinets.
At the state level, the People's Party has long dominated the rural states of Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, and Vorarlberg. It is less popular in the city state of Vienna and in the rural but less strongly Catholic states of Burgenland and Carinthia. In 2004 it lost its plurality in the State of Salzburg, where they kept its result in seats (14) in 2009 and in 2005 in Styria for the first time.
The ÖVP was the senior partner in a grand coalition government from 1945 to 1966, and governed alone from 1966 to 1970. It reentered the government in 1986, but has never been completely out of power since the restoration of Austrian independence in 1945, due to a longstanding tradition that all major interest groups were to be consulted on policy.
After the Austrian legislative election, 1999, the People's Party formed in 2000 a coalition government with the right-wing populist Freedom Party of Austria of its then-leader Jörg Haider. This caused widespread outrage in Europe, and the European Union imposed informal diplomatic sanctions on Austria, the first time that it imposed sanctions on a member state. Bilateral relations were frozen, including contacts and meetings at an inter-governmental level, and Austrian candidates would not be supported for posts in EU international offices. Austria, in turn, threatened to veto all applications by countries for EU membership until the sanctions were lifted. A few months later, these sanctions were dropped as a result of a fact-finding mission by three former European prime ministers, the so-called "three wise men". In November 2002, the 2002 legislative election resulted in a landslide victory (42.27% of the vote) for the People's Party under the leadership of Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel. Haider's Freedom Party, which in 1999 was slightly stronger than Schüssel's party, was reduced to 10.16% of the vote. After the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) had split from the FPÖ in 2005, so that they could continue their coalition together with the People's Party until 2007. Austria for the first time had a government containing of a party that was founded during the term of legislature.
In the 2006 election, the People's Party were defeated and after much negotiations agreed to become part of a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party of Austria, with new Party Chairman Wilhelm Molterer as Finance Minister and Vice-Chancellor under SPÖ leader Alfred Gusenbauer, who became Chancellor. The next legislative election in 2008 saw the party lose 15 seats with a 8.35% decrease in its share of the vote.
The ÖVP won the largest share of the vote (30.0% (−2.7%)) in the 2009 election for the European Parliament with 846,709 votes (+28,993) but their number of seats remained the same.
Chairpersons since 1945
The chart below shows a timeline of the Christian Democratic chairpersons and the Chancellors of Austria. The left black bar shows all the chairpersons (Bundesparteiobleute, abbreviated as "CP") of the ÖVP 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.
- Parties and Elections in Europe: The database about parliamentary elections and political parties in Europe, by Wolfram Nordsieck
- T. Banchoff (28 June 1999). Legitimacy and the European Union. Taylor & Francis. pp. 126–. ISBN 978-0-415-18188-4. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- André Krouwel (1 December 2012). Party Transformations in European Democracies. SUNY Press. pp. 291–. ISBN 978-1-4384-4483-3. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
- Dimitri Almeida (23 April 2012). The Impact of European Integration on Political Parties: Beyond the Permissive Consensus. CRC Press. pp. 69–. ISBN 978-1-136-34039-0. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
- Sarah Elise Wiliarty (16 August 2010). The CDU and the Politics of Gender in Germany: Bringing Women to the Party. Cambridge University Press. pp. 221–. ISBN 978-0-521-76582-4. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- "The European Union's sanctions against Austria". WSWS. 22 February 2000. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
- Donald G. McNeill (4 July 2000). "A Threat By Austria On Sanctions". New York Times. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
Media related to Austrian People's Party at Wikimedia Commons
- Austrian People's Party (official site)
- Austrian People's Party Country Studies - Austria
- Austrian People's Party page on the European People's Party website