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2019 Austrian legislative election

Legislative elections were held in Austria on 29 September 2019, to elect the 27th National Council, the lower house of Austria's bicameral parliament. The snap elections were called in the wake of the collapse of the ruling ÖVPFPÖ coalition and the announcement of Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache's resignation on 18 May 2019, following the Ibiza affair.

2019 Austrian parliamentary election

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All 183 seats in the National Council
92 seats needed for a majority
Opinion polls
  First party Second party Third party
  Sebastian Kurz (2018-02-28) (cropped).jpg 2019 Pamela Rendi-Wagner (32995117698) (cropped).jpg Norbert Hofer - FPÖ-Neujahrstreffen 2019.JPG
Leader Sebastian Kurz Pamela Rendi-Wagner Norbert Hofer
Party ÖVP SPÖ FPÖ
Leader since 15 May 2017 25 September 2018 19 May 2019
Last election 62 seats, 31.5% 52 seats, 26.9% 51 seats, 26.0%
Seats won 71 40 31
Seat change Increase 9 Decrease 12 Decrease 20
Popular vote 1,789,417 1,011,868 772,666
Percentage 37.5% 21.2% 16.2%
Swing Increase 6.0% Decrease 5.7% Decrease 9.8%

  Fourth party Fifth party
  Werner Kogler 2010 (cropped).jpg Beate Meinl-Reisinger 01 (cropped).jpg
Leader Werner Kogler Beate Meinl-Reisinger
Party Greens NEOS
Leader since 17 October 2017 23 June 2018
Last election 0 seats, 3.8% 10 seats, 5.3%
Seats won 26 15
Seat change Increase 26 Increase 5
Popular vote 664,055 387,124
Percentage 13.9% 8.1%
Swing Increase 10.1% Increase 2.8%

Chancellor before election

Brigitte Bierlein
Independent

Elected Chancellor

TBD

BackgroundEdit

The 2017 legislative election was called four years into a grand coalition between the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) and Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), prompted by the demand of newly elected ÖVP leader Sebastian Kurz for a snap election.[1] Though the SPÖ won 52 seats, as it did in the 2013 election, the ÖVP and FPÖ made large gains, increasing by 15 seats to 62 and 11 seats to 51, respectively, making the former the largest party at the federal level. NEOS gained a single seat, the Peter Pilz List entered the National Council with 8 seats, and the Greens fell short of the 4% threshold and lost all 24 seats.[2] Following the election, President Alexander Van der Bellen asked Kurz to form the next government, and the ÖVP initiated exploratory talks with the other parties in the National Council.[3] The ÖVP officially started coalition negotiations with the FPÖ on 25 October, agreeing on a five-point roadmap.[4] Negotiations drew towards a close in late November,[5] and the parties announced a coalition agreement on 15 December,[6] with the coalition government led by Kurz sworn in on 18 December.[7]

On 4 November 2017, Peter Pilz announced that he would not take his seat after accusations of sexual harassment.[8] On 11 June 2018, Pilz returned to the National Council and was sworn in after accusations of sexual harassment were dropped by the state prosecution. His return was made possible by the resignation of another member of the National Council, Peter Kolba, who stepped down after significant disputes within the List Pilz. The swearing-in ceremony of Pilz was met with heavy resistance, because almost all female representatives walked out of the parliament room as he was about to be sworn in.[9]

On 7 May 2018, Matthias Strolz announced that he will step down as leader of NEOS and hand over the party leadership in June, citing personal reasons and a successful period for the party since creation in 2012 with steady electoral gains during his term.[10] On 23 June 2018, party delegates elected Beate Meinl-Reisinger as the new leader of NEOS during a meeting in Vienna.[11]

On 20 August 2018, Maria Stern was elected new party leader of the List Pilz during a party meeting in Vienna. During the meeting, members also agreed to rename the list, for which a PR agency was hired.[12] On 19 November 2018, the List Pilz presented their new name: "JETZT" (or "NOW", in English).[13]

On 18 September 2018, opposition leader Christian Kern announced that he would resign as leader of the Austrian Social Democrats.[14] On 22 September 2018, former Minister of Health Pamela Rendi-Wagner was designated as the new chairwoman of the Social Democratic Party, officially becoming the party leader after a delegate vote at a party convention on 24 November 2018. She is the first female leader of the SPÖ.[15]

Ibiza affair and snap election announcementEdit

On 17 May 2019, a secretly recorded video was published of a July 2017 meeting in Ibiza, Spain, which appeared to show the then opposition politicians Heinz-Christian Strache and Johann Gudenus discussing their party's underhanded practices and intentions.[16][17][18] In the video, both politicians appeared receptive to proposals by a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch, discussing providing the FPÖ positive news coverage in return for government contracts. Strache and Gudenus also hinted at corrupt political practices involving other wealthy donors to the FPÖ in Europe and elsewhere.

On 18 May, Strache announced as a result that he would resign as FPÖ leader and vice chancellor, with Norbert Hofer replacing him as FPÖ leader.

On 19 May, Kurz tore up the coalition agreement and announced his intention to seek a snap election in September[19] with President Alexander Van der Bellen also signalling an election early that month.[20] Just eight days later, the Kurz government was toppled in the first successful no confidence vote in modern Austrian history.[21]

On 3 June, Brigitte Bierlein and her independent technocratic interim government was sworn into office by President Alexander Van der Bellen. Her government consists of 12 members, instead of 16 during the Kurz government.

On 12 June, the election date was eventually set for 29 September with the votes of SPÖ and FPÖ, while the ÖVP was opposed to such a late date and favouring early September instead.[22] It was decided that the snap election would not be held during the summer holiday season and that it should not coincide with state elections in Vorarlberg, to be held on 13 October.[23]

Electoral systemEdit

 
Austrian Parliament building (Vienna)

The 183 members of the National Council are elected by open list proportional representation at the level of one federal constituency consisting of all of Austria, 9 state constituencies, and 39 regional constituencies. Seats in the National Council are apportioned to the regional constituencies based on the results of the most recent census. Following elections, seats are allocated to the candidates of successful parties and lists in a three-stage process: from regional constituencies to state constituencies to the federal constituency.

For parties to receive any representation in the National Council, they must either win at least one seat in a constituency directly, or clear a 4 percent national electoral threshold.[24] Seats are distributed according to the Hare method in the first two stages, at the level of regional and state constituencies,[25] with any remaining seats allocated using the D'Hondt method at the federal level, to ensure overall proportionality between a party's national vote share and its share of parliamentary seats.[26] Deviations from near-perfect proportionality can nevertheless occur when a smaller party fails to clear the 4% hurdle and receives no seats as result, a fate the Green Party suffered in 2017. The rationale for the threshold is to discourage parties from splintering, and thereby prevent parliament from fragmenting into numerous small parties, which would complicate coalition formation in the first instance, and undermine their stability once they are formed.

In addition to voting for a national party or list, voters may, but are not required to, cast three preferential votes for specific candidates.[27]These additional votes do not affect the proportional allocation based on the vote for the party or list, but can change the rank order of candidates on a party's lists at the federal, state, and regional level. The threshold to increase the position of a candidate on a federal party list is 7 percent, compared to 10 percent at the state level, and 14 percent at the regional level. The names of candidates on regional party lists are printed on the ballot and can be marked with an "x" to indicate the voter's preference. Preference votes for candidates on party lists at the state and federal level, however, must be written in by the voter, either by writing the name or the rank number of the candidate in a blank spot provided for that purpose.[28] Austria still uses paper ballots, rather than electronic voting machines. Because the names of candidates on the regional lists are printed on the ballot, and because more parties and lists compete today than was the case in earlier decades of the Second Republic, today's ballots are much larger in size than was the case before the introduction of preferential voting.[29] Voting by placing an "x" in the circle provided next to party name on the top of the ballot, or candidate name at regional list of a party at the bottom, is the most common method, but other types of markings are also allowed. A voter may not cross party-lines to cast a preference vote for a candidate of another party. Such preference votes are invalid.

DateEdit

Per Article 26 and 27 of the Federal Constitutional Law, the National Council must be convened by the President no later than 30 days after the most recent election. The standard duration of the legislative period of the National Council is five years, by the end of which it must be renewed through an election on a Sunday or a public holiday.[30][31] Because the inaugural meeting of the 26th National Council took place on 9 November 2017, as determined by President Alexander Van der Bellen, the latest date on which the next legislative election could have been held would be 6 November 2022.[32]

Contesting partiesEdit

The table below lists parties represented in the 26th National Council.

Name Ideology Leader 2017 result
Votes (%) Seats
ÖVP Austrian People's Party
Österreichische Volkspartei
Christian democracy Sebastian Kurz 31.5%
62 / 183
SPÖ Social Democratic Party of Austria
Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs
Social democracy Pamela Rendi-Wagner 26.9%
52 / 183
FPÖ Freedom Party of Austria
Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs
Right-wing populism
Euroscepticism
Norbert Hofer 26.0%
51 / 183
NEOS NEOS – The New Austria and Liberal Forum
NEOS – Das Neue Österreich und Liberales Forum
Liberalism
Pro-Europeanism
Beate Meinl-Reisinger 5.3%
10 / 183
JETZT JETZT
JETZT – Liste Pilz
Left-wing populism
Green politics
Maria Stern
(lead candidate: Peter Pilz)
4.4%
8 / 183

Ballot access requirementsEdit

In order to contest the election nationwide, a party (or list) is required to obtain either the signatures of three MPs in parliament or to collect 2,600 valid signatures from eligible voters ahead of the elections.

Parties are also able to contest the election in individual states only. For this, they need to collect the following numbers of signatures:

Parties were able to collect the signatures between 9 July and 2 August. The state and federal election commissions then validated the signatures and announced the qualified parties.

Parties that collected enough signaturesEdit

In addition to the parties already represented in the National Council, eight parties collected enough signatures to participate in the election. Three of these were in all states, while five of them were in only some states.[33]

On the ballot in all 9 statesEdit

On the ballot in some states onlyEdit

Failed to achieve ballot accessEdit

Another eight parties or lists sought ballot access, but failed to submit the necessary amount of signatures on 2 August.

Opinion pollsEdit

ResultsEdit

Below are the final results of the election, certified on 16 October.

 
Party Votes % Seats +/–
Austrian People's Party 1,789,417 37.5 71 +9
Social Democratic Party of Austria 1,011,868 21.2 40 –12
Freedom Party of Austria 772,666 16.2 31 –20
The Greens – The Green Alternative 664,055 13.9 26 +26
NEOS – The New Austria and Liberal Forum 387,124 8.1 15 +5
JETZT 89,169 1.9 0 –8
Communist Party of Austria Plus 32,736 0.7 0 0
Der Wandel 22,168 0.5 0 New
Austrian Beer Party 4,946 0.1 0 New
Every Vote Counts! 1,767 0.0 0 0
BZÖ Carinthia – Alliance of Patriots 760 0.0 0 New
Socialist Left Party 310 0.0 0 0
Christian Party of Austria 260 0.0 0 0
Invalid/blank votes 58,223
Total 4,835,469 100 183 0
Registered voters/turnout 6,396,812 75.6
Source: Austrian Interior Ministry

Results by stateEdit

State results in % ÖVP SPÖ FPÖ Greens NEOS JETZT KPÖ+ Wandel Others Turnout
  Burgenland 38.3 29.4 17.3 8.1 4.9 1.3 0.4 0.3 0.1 81.4
  Carinthia 34.9 26.2 19.8 9.5 6.8 1.7 0.5 0.4 0.2 72.4
  Lower Austria 42.3 19.9 16.4 11.0 7.7 1.7 0.5 0.5 0.0 80.6
  Upper Austria 36.8 22.1 17.5 13.7 7.3 1.5 0.6 0.5 0.0 77.7
  Salzburg 46.4 16.4 13.7 12.6 8.4 1.4 0.6 0.5 0.0 76.4
  Styria 38.9 19.2 18.5 13.0 7.1 1.7 1.3 0.4 0.0 74.8
  Tyrol 45.8 13.0 14.7 14.7 8.9 1.7 0.6 0.4 0.2 71.8
  Vorarlberg 36.6 13.1 14.7 18.1 13.6 2.1 0.5 0.8 0.4 67.7
  Vienna 24.6 27.1 12.8 20.7 9.9 3.0 0.8 0.5 0.6 72.0
  Austria 37.5 21.2 16.2 13.9 8.1 1.9 0.7 0.5 0.1 75.6
Source: Austrian Interior Ministry

Government formationEdit

Although the ÖVP under Sebastian Kurz won a large pluarality, it does not command a majority of seats and will thus need a junior partner. Several coalition options are mathematically possible based on the distribution of parliamentary seats among the other parties, which reflects their respective shares of the vote.[34] The Green Party achieved their best electoral results ever, in part at the expense of the SPÖ, and is viewed as a potentially viable coalition partner, although such a conservative-green alliance would be unprecedented at the national level in Austria and would require compromise on policy positions by both sides.[35]

President Van der Bellen met with Kurz on Monday, 7 October 2019 to charge him with the task of forming a new government.[36] Kurz has committed himself to hold talks with all parties.[37] The Green Party leadership has already voted in favor of exploratory talks, and has avoided setting preconditions, though as of 29 September, a coalition with the ÖVP is backed by only 1/3 of Green members.[38] The Green Party leader, Werner Kogler, is a veteran of coalition talks with the ÖVP that failed on an earlier occasion after the 2002 election. However, 4 in 10 ÖVP voters prefer FPÖ, whereas only 1 in 5 could imagine cooperation with the Green Party. The party leaders of SPÖ, FPÖ and NEOS have also agreed to take part in the exploratory talks, which are the first step to form a new government.[39]

After the conclusion of the first round of talks, the FPÖ told Kurz that they would not continue the exploratory talks, but would consider re-entering negotiations should talks with other parties fail. Another round of exploration talks with SPÖ, the Greens and NEOS was then scheduled for Thursday, 17 October and Friday, 18 October.[40]

Impact of the Vorarlberg state electionEdit

Meanwhile, regional elections to the state legislature were held in Vorarlberg, Austria's westernmost constituent Bundesland (state) on 13 October 2019. The outcome of the election to this state legislature was closely watched because it came on the heels of the National Council elections, and because the state had already established a precedent for a workable conservative-green coalition government at the sub-national level in the previous election cycle. Based on the final election results, all parties represented in the Vorarlberg state legislature gained vote shares - except for the scandal-plagued FPÖ, which sustained heavy losses, just as it did in the national parliamentary elections two weeks earlier. With 18.9% of the vote, the Greens emerged as the second-largest party after the ÖVP, which garnered 43.5%.[41] Based on the final election results, four parties represented in the state parliament prior to the election gained one additional seat each in the 36-seat state legislature, all at the expense of the FPÖ, which lost four. As is the case at the federal level, coalition talks are to be held to determine the composition of the new government. A renewal of the ÖVP-Green coalition is the most likely outcome after Governor Markus Wallner (ÖVP) invited the Greens once again to in-depth talks following a series of talks with other party leaders.[42]

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit