President of Austria

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President of Austria
Bundespräsident der Republik Österreich
Austria Bundesadler.svg
Flag of Austria (state).svg
Van der Bellen portrait (cropped).jpg
Incumbent
Alexander Van der Bellen

since 26 January 2017
Executive branch of the Government
Presidential Chancellery
StyleMr. President
(ordinary)
His Excellency
(diplomatic)
TypeHead of state
StatusSupreme executive organ
ResidenceLeopoldine Wing, Hofburg Imperial Palace
SeatInnere Stadt, Vienna
NominatorPolitical parties or self-nomination
AppointerDirect popular vote
sworn in by the Federal Assembly
Term lengthSix years, renewable once
Constituting instrumentConstitution of Austria
PrecursorPresident of the Constituent National Assembly
Formation
  • Date established:
    1 October 1920
  • Date effective:
    10 November 1920
First holderMichael Hainisch
Salary€349,398 annually
Websitewww.bundespraesident.at

The president of Austria (German: Bundespräsident der Republik Österreich)[a] is the head of state of the Austrian Republic. Though theoretically entrusted with great power by the Constitution, in practice the president is largely a ceremonial and symbolic figurehead.

The office of the president was established in 1920 by the newly-crafted Federal Constitutional Law, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Habsburg Monarchy in 1918. As head of state, the president succeeded the chair of the Constituent Assembly, the post-monarchic provisional legislature. Originally intended to be chosen directly by the Austrian people through universal suffrage every six years, the president was appointed by the legislative Federal Assembly until 1951, when Theodor Körner became the first popularly-elected president. Since the institution of the popular vote, only nominees of the Social Democratic Party and the People's Party had been appointed to the presidency, until the election of the Green-endorsed incumbent Alexander Van der Bellen in 2016.

The president appoints the chancellor, the vice chancellor, the ministers, the secretaries of state, and the justices of the Supreme Courts[disambiguation needed]. The president can also remove the chancellor and the Cabinet at any time. Additionally, the president signs bills into law, is empowered to, dissolve the National Council and the state legislatures, sign treaties with foreign countries, rule by emergency decree, and command the Armed Forces. However, most of these presidential powers have never been used. Furthermore, the president ranks first in Austria's order of precedence, ahead of the presidium of the National Council and the chancellor.

The principal residence and workplace of the president is the Leopoldine Wing of the Hofburg Imperial Palace, situated in Vienna.

History[edit]

Prior to the collapse of the multinational Austro-Hungarian Empire towards the end of World War I, what now is the Republic of Austria had been part of a monarchy with an emperor as its head of state and chief executive. The empire noticeably began to fracture in late 1917 and manifestly disintegrated into a number of independent states over the course of the following year.

Session of the Provisional National Assembly (October 1918).

Effective 21 October 1918, the Imperial Council parliamentarians representing the empire's ethnically German provinces formed a Provisional National Assembly for their paralyzed rump state and appointed veteran party leader Karl Seitz as one of their three largely coequal chairmen (21 October 1918 – 16 February 1919). As chairman, he became an ex officio member of the State Council (Deutschösterreichischer Staatsrat). On 12 November 1918, the State Council collectively assumed the functions of head of state according to a resolution of the National Assembly.

On 11 November, Emperor Charles I announced "I relinquish every participation in the administration of the State. Likewise I have released the members of the Austrian Government from their offices".[1] The next day, parliament proclaimed the Republic of German-Austria. The assembly presidents (Seitz, Franz Dinghofer and Johann Nepomuk Hauser) continued to serve as acting heads of state until 4 March 1919, when the Constituent National Assembly collectively assumed these functions. Seitz (5 March 1919 – 10 November 1920) was the only President of the Constituent National Assembly.

Karl Seitz performed the duties of head of state according to a law of 1 October 1920, which transferred these duties to the "former president of the National Constituent Assembly" for the period from 10 November 1920, to the day of inaugurating the first president (9 December 1920). Since Austria had not finalized its decision to structure itself as a federation prior to the formal promulgation of the Constitution of Austria on 1 October 1920, referring to Seitz as president would have been inaccurate. Austria's first Bundespräsident proper thus was Michael Hainisch, Karl Seitz' immediate successor. In a related note, many popular sources quote some more or less random date between October 1918 and March 1919 as the beginning of Seitz' tenure. While most of them are merely misleading, others are plainly wrong: even though Seitz was appointed president of the Provisional National Assembly in October 1918, it would have been impossible for him to serve as Bundespräsident, since the republic has not even been proclaimed back-then.

The constitution originally defined Austria to be a parliamentary republic. Originally, the constitution was radically parliamentarian in character. The bicameral parliament, called the Federal Assembly, not only possessed legislative power, but also a good deal of executive power as well. The president was elected by both houses of the Federal Assembly for a term of four years. He was answerable to the Federal Assembly, and his role was almost entirely ceremonial. In particular, he did not have the power to appoint the government, a power reserved to the National Council, and had no authority to dissolve the National Council. He did not even have much actual influence on the appointment of Constitutional Court justices.

The role and nature of the president was the result of a compromise reached during the drafting of the constitution. The Christian Socials wanted a president with executive powers similar to those of the president of Germany. However, the Social Democrats, fearing that such a president would become an "ersatz emperor," would have preferred that the president of the National Council double as head of state. In the end, the framers created a separate presidency in accordance with the wishes of the Christian Socials. However, to appease the Social Democrats, he lacked even nominal executive authority. It was under this constitutional framework that Michael Hainisch and Wilhelm Miklas assumed office on 9 December 1920 and 10 December 1928, respectively.

The parliamentary system prescribed by the constitution was highly unpopular, however, with the authoritarian Heimwehr movement evolving during the 1920s. The Heimwehr was in favor of a system granting more powers to the president. On 7 December 1929, under growing pressure from the Heimwehr, the constitution was amended to give the president sweeping executive and legislative powers. Although most of these powers were to be exercised through the ministers, on paper the president now had powers equivalent to those of presidents in presidential systems. It also called for the office to be filled by popular vote for a term of six years. He also had the power to appoint the Cabinet. The first election was scheduled for 1934. However, owing to the growing worldwide financial crisis, all parties agreed to suspend the election in favour of having Miklas reelected by parliament.

A rally of the Fatherland Front, resembling most fascist conventions at the time.

Only three years later, however, the Fatherland Front – an alliance of the Heimwehr and the Christian Social Party – tore down Austrian parliamentarism altogether, formally annulling the constitution on 1 May 1934. It was replaced by an authoritarian/corporatist document that concentrated power in the hands of the Chancellor, not those of the president. Wilhelm Miklas was stripped of the powers he'd gained in 1929, but agreed to act as a figurehead of institutional continuity anyway. He was not entirely powerless, however; during the Anschluss crisis, he provided some of the stiffest resistance to the Nazi demands.[2] He technically remained in office until 13 March 1938, the day Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany and thus lost sovereignty.

When Austria re-established itself as an independent state on 27 April 1945, the party leaders forming the provisional government decided not to frame a new constitution, reverting instead to that of 1920, as amended in 1929. Even though this revision was still somewhat controversial at that point, it was part of Austria's most recent constitutional framework, giving it at least some much-needed form of democratic legitimacy. The party leaders were also afraid that lengthy discussion might provoke the Red Army then in control of Vienna to barge in and impose Communist rule. The constitution thus reenacted effective 1 May therefore still included the provision calling for popular election of the president. Following the November 1945 National Council elections, however, the National Assembly temporarily suspended this provision and installed Karl Renner as the president of Austria as of 20 December. The suspension in question seems to have been motivated mainly by lack of cash: no attempt was ever made to prolong it, and the benign septuagenarian Renner had been the universally respected provisional head of state anyway. Starting with the 1951 election of Renner's successor Theodor Körner, all presidents have in fact been elected by the people.

Election[edit]

Procedure[edit]

The president of Austria is elected by popular vote for a term of six years and is limited to two consecutive terms of office.[3][4][5][6] Voting is open to all people entitled to vote in general parliamentary elections, which in practice means that suffrage is universal for all Austrian citizens over the age of sixteen that have not been convicted of a jail term of more than one year of imprisonment. (Even so, they regain the right to vote six months after their release from prison.)

Until 1 October 2011, with the exception of members of any ruling or formerly ruling dynastic houses (a measure of precaution against monarchist subversion, and primarily aimed at members of the House of Habsburg), anyone entitled to vote in elections to the National Council who is at least 35 years of age is eligible for the office of president. The exception of ruling or formerly ruling dynasties has been abolished meanwhile within the Wahlrechtsänderungsgesetz 2011 (Amendment of the law on the right to vote 2011) due to an initiative by Ulrich Habsburg-Lothringen.[7]

The president is elected under the two-round system. This means that if no candidate receives an absolute majority (i.e. more than 50%) of votes cast in the first round, then a second ballot occurs in which only those two candidates who received the greatest number of votes in the first round may stand. However the constitution also provides that the group that nominates one of these two candidates may instead nominate an alternative candidate in the second round. If there is only one candidate standing in a presidential election then the electorate is granted the opportunity to either accept or reject the candidate in a referendum.

While in office the president cannot belong to an elected body or hold any other position.

Oath of office[edit]

Article 62 of the Austrian Constitution provides that the president must take the following oath or affirmation of office in the presence of the Federal Assembly (although the addition of a religious asseveration is admissible):[8][9]

"I solemnly swear that I will faithfully watch the Constitution and all the laws of the Republic and fulfill my duty to the best of my knowledge and conscience."

Latest elections[edit]

e • d Summary of the 2016 Austrian presidential election results
Candidates (party membership) First round Second round (annulled) Second round (re-run)
Votes % Votes % Votes %
Norbert Hofer (Freedom Party of Austria) 1,499,971 35.1 2,220,654 49.7 2,124,661 46.2
Alexander Van der Bellen (The Greens) 913,218 21.3 2,251,517 50.3 2,472,892 53.8
Irmgard Griss (Independent) 810,641 18.9
Rudolf Hundstorfer (Social Democratic Party of Austria) 482,790 11.3
Andreas Khol (Austrian People's Party) 475,767 11.1
Richard Lugner (Independent) 96,783 2.3
Valid votes 4,279,170 97.9 4,472,171 96.4 4,597,553 96.8
Invalid votes 92,655 2.1 164,875 3.6 151,851 3.2
Total votes 4,371,825 68.5 4,637,046 72.7 4,749,404 74.2
Eligible voters 6,382,507 6,382,507 6,399,572
Source: Bundesministerium für Inneres

Powers and duties[edit]

Presidential powers and responsibilities are chiefly established by the Federal Constitutional Law,[10][11] additional powers may be defined by federal statute, judicial interpretations and legal precedents. While the Austrian political system as a whole can often be compared with that of Germany, the Austrian presidency can hardly be compared with the German one, but rather much more with the British monarchy; since both are head of state, appoint the head of government and their Cabinet, can dismiss the head of government and their Cabinet, appoint the highest-ranking government officials, sign bills into law, and are the military commanders-in-chief of their country.

Powers of appointment[edit]

Chancellor and Cabinet

Cabinet Kreisky I, with Chancellor Bruno Kreisky seated at the center of the futon and President Rudolf Kirchschläger standing behind him (center-right)

The president appoints the chancellor, the vice chancellor, and the ministers, which collectively form the Cabinet of Austria.[12][13]

The people of Austria elect a new National Council at least every five years. The National Council is the lower chamber of the Parliament and substantially more powerful than its indirectly elected, upper counterpart, the Federal Council. Following such an election the president, by convention, charges the top candidate[b] of the party that won the most seats with the formation of a new Cabinet. Theoretically, the president could charge any citizen of Austria with the formation of a new Cabinet, however, since the National Council can dismiss the Cabinet through a motion of no confidence at any time, the president is de facto obliged to abide by convention. Once the victor of the election is charged with the Cabinet formation, they are ought to draft a "ministers' list", which comprises all Cabinet members. When drafting such a list, the person charged with the formation commonly claims the chancellorship. Since a party rarely has an absolute majority of seat within the National Council, they must find a coalition partner to establish a politically stable Cabinet; the leader of the junior coalition party commonly claims the vice chancellorship. The nominees for the ministerial offices, and the positions of secretaries of state (which are however, not formally part of the Cabinet), are assigned by the coalition partners ensuing comprehensive negotiations. Once the drafting of the ministers' list is completed, it is introduced to the president. The president can accept the list, decline it, decline individual nominees, or decline it and charge someone else with the Cabinet formation. If the list is accepted, the president will officially swear in the chancellor, the vice chancellor, the ministers, and the secretaries of state at an inaguartion ceremony, commonly taking place several days after having accepted the list.

So far, there have been only three cases in which a president declined to appoint a Cabinet nominee. Karl Renner denied to re-appoint a minister suspected of corruption. Thomas Klestil declined to appoint two ministers; one of the them was involved in a criminal case and the other had been frequently noticed for extremist and xenophobic statements before the election. In 1953, President Theodor Körner rejected the demand of Chancellor Leopold Figl to appoint a Cabinet in which the Federation of Independents would have been a coalition partner.

Federal and state officers
From the official and legal point of view, the president appoints all officers of the federal government, not just the members of Cabinet and the justices of the supreme courts. This includes all military officers and soldiers, all judges, as well as all ordinary functionaries and bureaucrats.[14][15] In practice however, this power of appointment is delegated to the ministers and their subordinates, although the highest-ranking officers of government are always personally appointed by the president.[16][17]

Because the governors of the states do not only serve as the chief executives of their respective state but also as the chief representatives of the federal government within that state, the president swears in all governors, following their election by the state diet.

Powers of dismissal[edit]

Cabinet
The president can dismiss the chancellor or the entire Cabinet at any time, such at will. However, individual Cabinet members can only be dismissed by the president on the advice of the chancellor.[12][13] So far, the dismissal of an entire Cabinet against its will has never occurred. President Wilhelm Miklas did not make use of this power when Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuß absolished the Constitution to establish the dictatorial Federal State of Austria.

The removal of a minister against their will occurred only once, when Chancellor Sebastian Kurz asked President Alexander Van der Bellen to remove Interior Minister Herbert Kickl. Ensuing the Ibiza affair and a likely collapse of the Cabinet, Kickl swiftly appointed Peter Goldgruber – with whom he had close ties – to the office of director general for the Public Security, the country's top law enforcement position.[c][18][19]

Powers of dissolution[edit]

National Council
The president may dissolve the National Council at the request of Cabinet, but only once for the same reason.[20][21] The legal consequences of a dissolution of the National Council by the president differ from those of a parliamentary self-dissolution. If the president terminates the legislative period, the National Council is immediately dissolved and thereby incapacitated. However, the Standing Subcommittee of the National Council's Principal Committee remains as an emergency body until the newly-elected National Council convenes. Prior to that, the president may issue emergency decrees on the request of the Cabinet and with the consent of the Standing Subcommittee of the Principal Committee. In the case of self-dissolution, the old National Council keeps meeting until a new one is elected.

So far, only President Wilhelm Miklas has made use of this power, after the Christian Social Party had lost its coalition partner and thus a majority in Parliament.

State diets
The president can dissolve every State Diet at the request of Cabinet and with the consent of the Federal Council.[22][23] However, the president may only do so once for the same reason; as with the dissolution of the National Council. The Federal Council must agree to the dissolution by a two-thirds majority. The delegation of the state whose Diet is to be dissolved, may not partake in the vote.

The dissolution of a State Diet is viewed as an encroachment on federalism, as the national government directly intervenes into state affairs. Like with the presidential dissolution of the National Council, a dissolved State Diet is considered incapacitated until after a new election. This power has never been applied by any president yet.

Legislative role[edit]

Signing bills into law

The signatures of four different presidents.

As state notary of the republic, the president signs bills into law.[24][25] Signing bills into law is a constitutionally mandated duty of the president and not a discretionary power; it is not comparable with the presidential veto in the United States or the Royal Assent in the United Kingdom. In their capacity as state notary, the president scrutinises the constitutionality of the lawmaking process, undertaken to enact a piece of legalisation. If the president finds the bill to have been crafted in an unconstitutional way, the president is ought to "fail" to sign; meaning that the president is compelled to deny signature, which strikes down the bill. All bills on federal level, no matter if they affect statutory or even constitutional law, must be signed by the president to take effect.

The president generally does not verify if an enacted statute complies with constitutional law; that is subject to the Constitutional Court, once the statute becomes effective and is legally challenged. Judicial interpretations regarding the scrutiny extent of this presidential responsibility have varied, with some arguing that the president may deny signature if provisions of an enacted statute are undoubtedly unconstitutional. President Heinz Fischer established a precedent for that, by refusing to sign a statute – containing retrospective criminal provisions – into law; this remains the only time a president has denied signature.

Once a bill is introduced in Parliament, it must pass the National Council with the requisite quorums and be approved by the Federal Council to become 'enacted'.[26] After its enactment the bill is forwarded to the chancellor, who submits it to the president. The president then signs the bill into law, that is, if it has been enacted in accordance with constitutional requirements.[27] The chancellor subsequently countersigns and then promulgates the bill in the federal law gazette, ultimately rendering it effective.[28][29]

If the president refuses to sign any or particular bills into law – that are not in obvious and direct violation of constitutional law – the president may be impeached by the Federal Assembly before the Constitutional Court and subsequently removed from office through conviction for violating the Constitution.

Rule by decree
The president is authorized to rule by emergency decree in times of crisis.[30][31] The Constitution states as follow:

"to ward off irreparable damages to the general public, at a time where the National Council is not in session and cannot be convened in time, at the request of the Cabinet, and with the assent of the Standing Subcommittee of the Principal Committee of the National Council, the president is empowered to adopt provisional regulations that have the force of law".

Such emergency decrees do not affect the Constitution – which chiefly consists of the Federal Constitutional Law and the Basic Human Rights – as well as any other important legal provision. As soon as the National Council is in session again, it is ought to immediately approve or invalidate active emergency decrees. The power to rule by decree has never been applied yet.

Judicial role[edit]

Executor of the Constitutional Court
The president is entrusted with the enforcement of findings of fact of the Constitutional Court, when such enforcement is not subject to ordinary courts.[32][33] The request for enforcement is submitted to the president by the Court itself. The Constitution provides the president with extensive enforcement powers. Enforcement jurisdiction can comprise state and federal authorities (this includes the Armed Forces and law enforcement) as well as a state or the republic in its entirety. When wielding enforcement rights, the president obtains direct operational control over the authorities concerned. If a federal authority or the republic as a whole are affected, the president does not require countersignature.

Appointing justices
The president appoints the president, the vice president, the six further justices, and the three substitute justices of the Constitutional Court on the nomination of Cabinet; additionally, the president appoints one justice and three substitute justices on the nomination of the National Council and one justice and three substitute justices on the nomination of the Federal Council.[34][35] The president also appoints the president, the two vice presidents, the 14 presiding justices, and the 43 further justices of the Supreme Court of Justice; as well as the president, the vice president, the presiding justices, and the further justices of the Supreme Administrative Court on the nomination of Cabinet, of which all members expect the president and vice president are recommended to Cabinet by the Court itself.[36]

Diplomatic role[edit]

The president is the chief diplomat of Austria and may negotiate and sign treaties with foreign countries; some treaties require the assent of the National Council.[37][38]

When Austria joined the European Union, President Thomas Klestil and Chancellor Franz Vranitzky had a disagreement on who would represent Austria in the European Council. Ultimately, the chancellor's point of view prevailed, mainly due to legal and practical reasons. However, President Klestil argued that he had only delegated this power of representation to the chancellor.

Commander-in-chief[edit]

Newspaper Das Interessante Blatt reporting on the constitutional amendment of 1929

The president is the commander-in-chief of the Austrian Armed Forces,[39] a role derived from the constitutional amendment of 1929. While there is no unanimous juridical or scholarly consensus regarding the amendment's interpretation, the role is widely recognized as a critical reserve right.

Article 80 of the Constitution establishes how the military is to be governed. Clause 1 of that article states that "the President shall have Supreme Command over the Armed Forces", Clause 2 states that "if not the President maintains disposal authority over the military, as established by Defense Law, the minister responsible [Minister of Defense] shall maintain disposal authority within a scope of responsibility defined by the Cabinet", and Clause 3 states that "command authority over the military shall be exercised by the minister responsible [Minister of Defense]".[40][41]

The Constitution therefore distinguishes between three different types of military authority: "command authority" (=Befehlsgewalt), which grants one the plain right to issue verbal or written instructions; "disposal authority" (=Verfügungsgewalt), which empowers one to define the structures, tasks, and missions of the Armed Forces or its individual units; and "supreme command" (=Oberbefehl), which elevates one to the peak of the chain of command.[42] The latter one (which Clause 1 gives the president) has particularly been ambiguous and inconclusive; however, the majority of constitutional scholars[d] believe that the president, in this capacity, may theoretically command the minister of defense and all military personnel.[43]

Since no president has ever made use of this power, legal precedents were never established. The military's day-to-day operations are directed by the minister of defense, who is widely recognized as its de facto highest authority.[44][45] Key decisions on the use of the Armed Forces are usually made by the whole Cabinet.

Historically, the president, as commander-in-chief, succeeded the emperor of Austria in his capacity as supreme commander of the Austro-Hungarian Military. Following the collapse of the Habsburg monarchy in 1918, the Principal Committee of the newly established National Council began serving as the chief decision-making body of the Armed Forces. In 1929, the Christian Social Party transferred supreme military command from the Principal Committee to the president through a constitutional amendment, in order to advance fascism in Austria.

Other powers and duties[edit]

The president has various additional powers and duties, which are typically vested in a head of state. These include, for example, the creation and conferment of honorary and professional titles, and the basically meaningless right to declare "illegitimate children" to "legitimate children" at the request of their parents.[37][38] Another power is the bestowal of the Promotio sub auspiciis Praesidentis rei publicae, a golden ring serving as the highest possible distinction and decoration for doctoral students with the most extraordinary credentials. Furthermore, the president is empowered strike down criminal cases ("right of abolition") and to grant pardons and commutations. According to case law of the Constitutional Court, presidential pardons do not only void the sentence but also undo the conviction.[46]

Incumbency[edit]

Immunity[edit]

The president enjoys full sovereign immunity from any type of official prosecution, including civil suit and criminal prosecution. The president may only be prosecuted with the explicit consent of the Federal Assembly. If a government authority intends to prosecute the president, it must refer a request for extradition to the National Council. If the National Council approves, the chancellor must convene the Federal Assembly, which will then decide over the request for extradition.[47][48]

Removal[edit]

Popular deposition
The ordinary way of removing a sitting president from office would be through popular deposition. Since the president is elected by the people, the people also have the power to remove the president again through a plebiscite.[49][50]

Popular deposition commences with an act of the National Council requesting the convocation of the Federal Assembly. Such a resolution of the National Council is passed with a supermajority, meaning it requires the same quorums as when amending constitutional law; the attendance of at least half of the members of the National Council and a successful two-thirds vote. If passed, the president is automatically unable to "further exercise the powers and duties of the presidency" and thereby deprived of all authority, the chancellor in turn, is required to immediately call a session of the Federal Assembly. Once convened, the Federal Assembly then considers and decides over the National Council's request of administering a plebiscite.

If a plebiscite is conducted and turns out successful, the president is removed from office. However, if the plebiscite fails the Constitution treats it as a new legislative election, which triggers the immediate and automatic dissolution of the National Council; even in such a case, the president's term of office may not exceed twelve years in total.

Impeachment
The president can be impeached before the Constitutional Court by the Federal Assembly for violating constitutional law.[51][52] This process is triggered by either a resolution of the National Council or the Federal Council. Upon the passage of such a resolution, the chancellor is required to call a session of the Federal Assembly, which then considers the impeachment of the president. A supermajority is needed to impeach the president, meaning the attendance of at least half of the members of the National Council and the Federal Council as well as a successful two-thirds vote are required.[53][54]

If the Federal Assembly decides to impeach the president, it acts as the plaintiff before the Constitutional Court. If the Court convicts the president of having breached constitutional law, the president is automatically removed from office. Conversely, if the Court finds the president to have committed a minor offense, the president remains in office and is merely reprimanded.

Succession[edit]

The Constitution of Austria makes no provisions for an office of vice president. Should the president become temporarily incapacitated – undergoes surgery, becomes severely ill, or visits a foreign country (excluding EU member states) – presidential powers and duties devolve upon the chancellor for a period of twenty days, although the chancellor does not become "acting president" during that time.

The powers and duties of the presidency devolve upon the Presidium of the National Council in the following three cases:

  • The aforementioned period of twenty days expires, in which case the Presidium assumes presidential powers and duties on the twenty-first day.[55][56]
  • The office is vacated because the president dies, resigns, or is removed from office, in which case the Presidium assumes presidential powers and duties immediately.
  • The president is prevented from "further exercising the powers and duties of the presidency" because the National Council has requested the convocation of the Federal Assembly to consider popular deposition, in which case the Presidium also assumes presidential powers and duties immediately.

When exercising the powers and duties of the presidency, the three presiding officers of the National Council – forming the Presidium – act collectively as a collegiate body. If votes are divided equally, the higher-ranking presiding officer's vote prevails.

Compensation[edit]

The president is compensated for his or her service with 349,398 EUR annually, the chancellor in turn is compensated with 311,962 EUR annually.[57] This amount is particularly high when considering that the chancellor of Germany (€251,448),[58] the president of France (€179,000),[59] the prime minister of the United Kingdom (€169,284),[60] and the president of Russia (€125,973) receive a significantly lesser salary, although they are the chief executives of substantially larger countries; the Austrian president's salary is topped only by that of the president of the United States (€370,511).[61][62]

Residence[edit]

Mirror room of the Leopoldine Win
Central hallway of the Leopoldine Wing
Facade of the Leopoldine Wing
The mirror room (left), the central hallway (right), and the facade (below) of the Leopoldine Wing.

The principal residence and workplace of the president is the Leopoldine Wing in the Hofburg Imperial Palace, which is located in the Innere Stadt of Vienna.[63] The Leopoldine Wing is sometimes ambiguously referred to as the "Presidential Chancellery". In practice, the president does not actually reside in the Hofburg but retains their personal home.

As its full name already divulges, the Hofburg is an edifice stemming from the times of the monarchy; it was built under Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I in the 13th century. Ensuing the fall of the monarchy and the formation of the republic, democratic institutions intentionally kept their distance from monarchic establishments and so the original residence of the president became the chancellery building. However, following a severe bombardment during World War II, the chancellery building became uninhabitable and the president had to find new lodging. The first president of the Second Republic, Karl Renner, deliberately chose the Leopoldine Wing; as its creation and history – in particular the interior design – was majorly influenced by Empress Maria Theresia, whose profile was generally favorable among the people at the time. The chancellery building was later renovated and now serves as the residence and workplace of the chancellor.

Today, the Leopoldine Wing harbours the offices of the Presidential Chancellery on its second and third floor. Additionally to the Hofburg, the president has a summer residence at their disposal, the Mürzsteg Hunting Lodge. However, the lodge hasn't been utilised for decades; former President Heinz Fischer even fruitlessly pledged to sell the building while campaigning for the presidency.[64]

Protection[edit]

The president is legally protected by multiple special criminal law provisions; of which the most important is § 249 of the statutory Criminal Code:[65][66]

"Anyone who attempts depose the President by force or dangerous threats or to use one of these means to coerce or prevent the exercise of his powers, in part or in their entirety, is subject to imprisonment from one to ten years."

Furthermore, the title "Bundespräsident" (=president) may – even with additions or in connection with other titles – not be used by anyone other than the incumbent president.

Chancellery[edit]

The president heads the Presidential Chancellery, a small executive branch organization with the purpose of aiding the president in exercising and carrying out their powers and duties.[67] The Presidential Chancellery shouldn't be confused with the Federal Chancellery, a substantially larger executive branch institution reporting to the chancellor.[68] The Presidential Chancellery is the only government body the president actually directs. The term "Presidential Chancellery" is sometimes interchangeably used with "Leopoldine Wing", the seat of the president and the Presidential Chancellery.[69]

List of presidents[edit]

This section lists all presidents of Austria,[70][71] which excludes the chancellors and colleges that provisionally exercised presidential powers and duties.

Portrait President Lifespan Took office Left office Political party
First Republic (1918–1938)
Michael Hainisch (cropped).jpg Michael Hainisch
[72][73]
15 August 1858 – 26 February 1940 9 December 1920 10 December 1928 independent
WilhelmMiklas37840v.jpg Wilhelm Miklas
[74]
15 October 1872 – 20 March 1956 10 December 1928 13 March 1938 CS
Second Republic (since 1945)
Karl Renner 1905.jpg Karl Renner
[75][76]
14 December 1870 – 31 December 1950 20 December 1945 31 December 1950 SPÖ
Theodor Körner.jpg Theodor Körner
[77]
23 April 1873 – 4 January 1957 21 June 1951 4 January 1957 SPÖ
Adolf Schärf 1961.jpg Adolf Schärf
[78]
20 April 1890 – 28 February 1965 22 May 1957 28 February 1965 SPÖ
Franz Jonas 1965.jpg Franz Jonas
[79]
4 October 1899 – 24 April 1974 9 June 1965 24 April 1974 SPÖ
Rudolf Kirchschläger.jpg Rudolf Kirchschläger
[80]
20 March 1915 – 30 March 2000 8 July 1974 8 July 1986 independent
(SPÖ nominated)
Kurt Waldheim 1971b.jpg Kurt Waldheim
[81]
21 December 1918 – 14 June 2007 8 July 1986 8 July 1992 independent
(ÖVP nominated)
Thomas Klestil.jpg Thomas Klestil
[82]
4 November 1932 – 6 July 2004 8 July 1992 6 July 2004 ÖVP
independent
Heinz Fischer - Buchmesse Wien 2018.JPG Heinz Fischer
[83]
born 9 October 1938 8 July 2004 8 July 2016 SPÖ
independent
Alexander Van der Bellen 2016 (cropped).jpg Alexander Van der Bellen
[84][85]
born 18 January 1944 26 January 2017 Present independent

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Literal translation: Federal President of the Republic of Austria
  2. ^ which commonly is also the leader
  3. ^ Which is generally of professional and permanent nature
  4. ^ most notably former Constitutional Court president Ludwig Adamovich Jr.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]