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The political, administrative and legal systems

The Constitution

Austria is a democratic republic. The territory of the Federal Republic consists of nine federal states or provinces (Bundesland, Land; plural: Bundesländer, Länder). Vienna is the federal capital and the seat of the supreme federal authorities. Since 1995, Austria is a member state of the European Union.

Six political parties are currently represented in the Austrian Parliament: the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ); the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP); the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ); the Greens; the Team Stronach and the NEOS.

Elections

All political institutions established by the Constitution derive their powers either directly or indirectly from elections by secret, personal and equal ballot.

Austrian citizens elect

  • the National Assembly (Nationalrat, the people’s chamber of Parliament) – every five years
  • the Provincial Parliament (Landtag, Parliament of a Province) – every five or six years
  • the Municipal Council (EU citizens resident in the municipality can also vote) – every five or six years
  • the Austrian Members of the European Parliament (citizens of other EU countries with their main residence in Austria have the right to vote)
  • the Federal President – every six years

Other instruments of democracy are the referendum or plebiscite (Volksbefragung, Volksabstimmung, Volksbegehren).

All Austrians (and some citizens of other EU member states) who reach age 16 before the appointed date can vote.

The Parliament

The Austrian Parliament consists of two chambers: the National Assembly (Nationalrat) and the Federal Council (Bundesrat).

The National Assembly is the main legislative body. The preparation and implementation of legislation takes place in the Federal Government or in the Provincial Governments. Legislative tasks are carried out at federal level by the National Assembly in conjunction with the Federal Council.

The Federal Council represents the interests of the provinces in Parliament. Provincial Assemblies (Landtage) represent the interests of citizens in the individual provinces. Each federal province is administered by a Provincial Government, which is headed by a Provincial Governor (Landeshauptmann) elected by the respective Provincial Assembly.

The Federal Government

One of the Federal Government’s tasks is to prepare draft legislation, which is then submitted to Parliament. The Federal Government is headed by the Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) who, along with the Vice Chancellor, federal ministers and state secretaries, conducts government business.

The administration of justice

The administration of justice in Austria proceeds from the federal level. Court judgments and decisions are pronounced and published in the name of the Republic. Judges are independent in the exercise of their office. Proceedings in courts of civil and criminal law are verbal and public. The final court of appeal for civil and criminal proceedings is the Supreme Court.

The judiciary is separate from the executive at all levels of jurisdiction. The police, as an executive agency, are subject to the Republic of Austria.

As in other countries, there are four levels of judicial authority in Austria: district courts (Bezirksgericht); regional courts (Landesgericht); Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht); Supreme Court (Oberster Gerichtshof).

The Administrative Court (Verwaltungsgericht) deals with disputes in connection with decisions taken by the administrative authorities. The Constitutional Court (Verfassungsgericht) deals with actions against federal, provincial, regional or municipal authorities.

Please note:
On court days (for example, one day a week at the district courts) interested persons can in a first free legal consultation receive information on their rights and obligations in court.

Fundamental Rights

All citizens enjoy fundamental rights as stated in the Constitution: "All citizens are equal before the law. No one may be discriminated against or favoured on the basis of birth, sex, origin, class or religion."

In 1958 Austria ratified the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of the Council of Europe.

Further information and useful links

Links

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