Chancellor of Austria

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Federal Chancellor of the
Republic of Austria
Flag of Austria (state).svg
Bundeskanzleramt (Österreich) logo.svg
Werner Faymann 2014 (cropped).jpg
Werner Faymann

since 12 December 2008
Style Excellency
Member of Federal Government
European Council
Residence Ballhausplatz 2
Seat Vienna, Austria
Appointer President of Austria
Term length No term limit
Precursor Minister-President of Cisleithania
Formation First Republic of Austria
10 November 1920
First holder Karl Renner,
as State Chancellor
30 October 1918
Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Austria
Coat of arms of Austria.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
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The Federal Chancellor (German: Bundeskanzler, sometimes shortened to Kanzler) is the head of government of Austria. In his capacity as chairman of the Austrian Federal Government, the chancellor represents the supreme federal authority of the executive branch. Though formally an equal member of the cabinet, the Chancellor is considered to be the most powerful position in Austrian politics, and as such is the nation's de facto chief executive. His official seat is in the Federal Chancellery.

The current Chancellor is Werner Faymann, who was appointed upon the 2008 legislative election. His deputy is Reinhold Mitterlehner acting as Vice-Chancellor of Austria.


The use of the term Chancellor (Kanzler, derived from Latin: cancellarius) as head of the chancery writing office can be traced back as far as the ninth century, when under King Louis the German the office of the Archchancellor (Erzkanzler), later Imperial Chancellor (Reichserzkanzler), was created as a high office on the service of the Holy Roman Emperor.[1] The task was usually fulfilled by the Prince-Archbishops of Mainz as Archchancellors of the German lands.

In the course of the Imperial reform, the Habsburg Emperor Maximilian I in 1498 attempted to counter the spiritual power of the Reichserzkanzler with a more secular position of an Imperial Court Chancellor (Hofkanzler), but the two became merged. These were also the times when attempts were made to balance Imperial absolutism by the creation of Imperial Governments (Reichsregiment), ultimately a failure.

Habsburg Monarchy[edit]

Nevertheless, when Maximilian's grandson Ferdinand I succeeded him as Archduke of Austria in 1521, his elder brother Emperor Emperor Charles V (1519–1556) appointed Mercurino Gattinara as "Grand Chancellor of all the realms and kingdoms of the king" (Großkanzler aller Länder und Königreiche). The separate position of an Austrian Court Chancellor appeared as a Österreichische Hofkanzlei around 1526, when the Habsburg Monarchy arose with the Bohemian and Hungarian inheritance; it was however once again merged with the equivalent Reichshofkanzlei office of the Holy Roman Empire in 1559.

Upon the 1620 Battle of White Mountain and the suppression of the Bohemian revolt, Emperor Ferdinand II had separate Court Chancelleries established in order to strengthen the unity of the Habsburg hereditary lands. Beside a Bohemian and Hungarian chancellery, he created the office of an Austrian chancellor in Vienna, responsible for the Archduchy of Austria proper (i.e. Upper and Lower Austria) with the Inner Austrian territories and Tyrol. Under Emperor Leopold I (1658–1705) the term again became Hofkanzler with Johann Paul Freiherr von Hocher (1667–1683), and Theodor von Strattman (1683–1693). [2]

Federal Chancellery on Ballhausplatz, former Geheime Hofkanzlei

The eighteenth century was dominated by Prince Wenzel Anton of Kaunitz-Rietberg (1753-1792), who was Chancellor to four Habsburg emperors from Maria Theresa to Francis II, with the titles of both Hofkanzler and Staatskanzler. He was succeeded by Johann Philipp von Cobenzl (1792–1793), who was dismissed by Emperor Francis II over the Partition of Poland and was succeeded by Johann Amadeus Francis de Paula (Baron Thugot) (1793–1800). Thugot's chancellorship did not survive the Austrian defeats by the French at the battles of Marengo and Hohenlinden in 1800 and he was replaced by Johan Ludwig Joseph Cobenzl (1800–1805), his predecessor's cousin, but who in turn was dismissed following the Austrian defeat at Austerlitz in 1805.

Austrian Empire[edit]

With the consequent dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and founding of the Austrian Empire, Francis II abdicated the former Imperial Throne, but remained Emperor Francis I of Austria in 1806. He had replaced Cobenzl with Johan Philip Charles Stadion (1805–1809) the previous year, but his career was in turn cut short in 1809 following yet another Austrian defeat by Napoleon at the Battle of Wagram and subsequent humiliation at the Treaty of Schönbrunn. Prince Klemens von Metternich was appointed by Francis I to the positions of Hofkanzler and Staatskanzler (1821-1848). However there is some opinion that the Chancellor title was not used between Prince Kaunitz-Rietberg's resignation in 1792 and 1821. [3] As the Metternich system had become a synonym for his reactionary politics, the title of a State Chancellor was abolished upon the 1848 revolutions. The position became that of a Minister-President of Austria, equivalent to Prime Minister, with the exception of Count Friedrich Ferdinand von Beust (1867–1871) [2] [4] the title only re-emerging at the birth of German Austria after World War I in 1918, when Karl Renner was appointed Staatskanzler. With the enactment of the Constitution of Austria on 10 November 1920, the actual term Bundeskanzler was implemented as head of the executive branch of the First Austrian Republic.


Since a 1929 constitutional reform, the Chancellor is appointed by the President of Austria. In theory, the President can select anyone he wishes to be Chancellor. De facto however, the National Council parliament has the right to pass a motion of no confidence in the government as a whole or individual cabinet members at any time. Also, it would be all but impossible for a cabinet to govern without adequate support in parliament.

The Chancellor assumes his office immediately and nominates the federal ministers for appointment by the President. Appointments and dismissals are made by the President at the Chancellor's recommendation. However, it has become strong constitutional convention for the President to act on the Chancellor's advice. Once sworn in, the government is capable of acting, without further confirmation by the National Council.

The Chancellor's term of office is not limited and in no way affiliated with the legislative session, though he usually declares the resignation of his government to the Prescient upon a parliamentary election. If not, he would have to cope with the authority of the President to dismiss the cabinet or with the possibility of a vote of no confidence by the newly elected National Council. The Chancellor is normally entrusted by the President with the continuation of his official duties until a new government is sworn in.

Role and powers[edit]

Cabinet room in the Austrian Chancellery.

As primus inter pares ("first among equals") in the Austrian government, the Chancellor chairs the weekly cabinet meetings (Ministerrat) coordinating the government's policies, but—unlike the Chancellor of Germany—does not possess the power to direct the federal ministers; nor could he appoint or dismiss the cabinet members, though the President would normally act at his suggestion. Thus, although considered as the most powerful political position by the public opinion in Austria, he has a considerably weaker standing than the US President or the UK Prime Minister.

Bills adopted by the National Council and certified by the President need the countersignature by the Chancellor to obtain legal force. As a result of government formation process, the Chancellor could also conduct affairs of a federal ministry in his own responsibility. According to the protocol, the Chancellor ranks 3rd after the Austrian President and the President of the National Council.

The Chancellor normally chairs the largest political party in the Austrian parliament. his political power is devolved from within the party, and can vary depending on his personality and whether there is a coalition government. Especially his relationship with the Federal Minister of Finance has proven vital in the last decades.

The long-lasting Proporz constellation of two approximately equipollent coalition parties has led to some incrustations in Austrian politics.The Chancellor's authority is much stronger in a single-party cabinet, which only Josef Klaus and Bruno Kreisky have achieved so far. On the other hand, in 2000 Wolfgang Schüssel was appointed Chancellor of a highly controversial coalition government with the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), although his Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) then had only been third in the previous parliamentary election.

List of Chancellors of Austria[edit]

Karl Renner, Austrian State Chancellor 1918–1920

See also[edit]


External links[edit]