|Founded||4 February 1993|
|Dissolved||25 January 2014|
|Split from||Freedom Party of Austria|
|European affiliation||Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe|
|International affiliation||Liberal International|
|Colours||Yellow (light blue until 2001)|
The Liberal Forum (German: Liberales Forum, LiF) was a liberal political party in Austria. The party was active from February 1993 to January 2014, when the party merged into NEOS – The New Austria. The party was a member of the Liberal International and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party.
The Liberal Forum (LiF) was founded on 4 February 1993, when liberals in the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), including five members of the National Council of Austria, left the party. The five Nationalrat members were Heide Schmidt, Klara Motter, Friedhelm Frischenschlager, Hans Helmut Moser, and Thomas Barmüller. Heide Schmidt (who was third president of the Nationalrat until 1994) became the party's first chairperson.
The reason for the split within the FPÖ was growing disagreements between the liberal wing and the nationalist camp. Jörg Haider launched a petition-drive against foreign immigrants in Austria, the so-called Austria First Referendum (Österreich Zuerst Volksbegehren). This in turn was unacceptable to Heide Schmidt and her followers. The founders of the new party wanted to be a liberal party in the classical sense, which the FPÖ had ceased to be since the resignation of Norbert Steger and the rise of Haider.
LiF was the first party in the history of the Second Republic (since 1945) to achieve immediate seats in parliament without prior elections. After some initial confusion, the chairs of the house accepted the new formation as an official party, thereby granting access to public financial means of support. The FPÖ left the Liberal International and LiF took over its membership in its place. The party managed to gain 11 seats in the 1994 parliamentary elections, and with 5.51% of all votes cast 10 seats in the 1995 elections.
However, following the resignation of Schmidt as chairperson and the elections in 1999, the party's support plummeted and it failed to gain any seats. In the elections of 3 October 1999 the party obtained 3.65% of all votes and therefore failed to surmount the 4% mandatory threshold in order to enter parliament. In the elections of 2002 it obtained 1% of the vote and got no seats. As a consequence it also lost votes in state elections and is only represented on the communal level. In Vienna the party lost all seats on the district level in the elections of 2005.
LiF decided not to contest the 2009 European election, focussing on refounding and building up the party instead. The Young Liberals (JuLis), the LIF's student and youth organisation, contested the election independently instead.
LiF contested the 2013 legislative election in an electoral alliance with newly formed NEOS – The New Austria. On 25 January 2014 LiF finally merged into NEOS which took the full name of "NEOS – The New Austria and Liberal Forum".
According to its founding charter, the LiF propagated political liberalism and advocated a free market economy. Furthermore, the party wanted environmental protection and supported world peace. The party supported:
- Promotion of privatisation
- Legalisation of cannabis
- Equalisation of homosexuals
- Liberalisation of shopping hours
- Increase of the voting age
Chairpersons since 1993
The chart below shows a timeline of the Liberal chairpersons and the Chancellors of Austria. The left bar shows all the chairpersons (Bundessprecher, abbreviated as "CP") of the Liberal party, and the right bar shows the corresponding make-up of the Austrian government at that time. The red (Social Democratic Party of Austria, SPÖ) and black (Austrian People's Party, 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.
Parliamentary election results
|Results of the LIF in National Council elections|
|Year||Percentage of votes received||Mandates|
|2013||5,0% (+2,9) with NEOS||2 (+2)|
|2008||2,1% (+2,1)||0 (-1)|
|2006||did not run||1 (Alexander Zach got a seat of the SPÖ's list)|
|2002||0.98% (-2.7)||0 (-)|
|1999||3.7% (-1.8)||0 (-10)|
|1995||5.5% (-0.5)||10 (-1)|
|1994||6.0% (+6.0)||11 (+11)|
On June 7, 2005 MEP Karin Resetarits left the party of Hans-Peter Martin, following several disagreements with him. She crossed the floor and has taken her seat with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. Subsequently, she also joined the Liberal Forum and represented them in the European Parliament.
The Liberal Forum participated to the 2008 elections, its Electoral list led by the former chairperson Heide Schmidt. Shortly before the elections, there were allegations that Zach had lobbied for EADS, leading to his resignation in order to protect the party's integrity; Schmidt took over as interim leader.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Liberales Forum.|
- Liberal Forum official site