2004 Austrian presidential election

← 1998 25 April 2004 2010 →
Nominee Heinz Fischer Benita Ferrero-Waldner
Home state Styria Salzburg
Popular vote 2,166,690 1,969,326
Percentage 52.4% 47.6%

President before election

Thomas Klestil


Heinz Fischer

Presidential elections were held in Austria on 25 April 2004. While the post of President of Austria is a largely ceremonial one, presidential elections are conducted on a party basis and are seen as a test of the relative standing of the major parties.

The victorious candidate was Heinz Fischer of the opposition Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ). He defeated Benita Ferrero-Waldner, foreign minister in the ruling conservative coalition led by the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP).


The campaign started in January 2004 with the announcements of Ferrero-Waldner and Fischer that they would run. Several other candidates also announced their intention to run, but they were not supported by a major party, their campaigns went virtually unnoticed by the media, and they failed to get the required 6,000 signatures supporting their candidacy.

A notable exception was Franz Fiedler, head of the National Audit Office. In late February he announced that he was considering a candidacy, and that he had the support of important but unnamed politicians. Conventional wisdom held that he had no chance of getting a majority, but that his candidacy would force a run-off between Ferrero-Waldner and Fischer. But since his financial supporters were unwilling to reveal their names, he decided not to run.

In advance of the campaign the ÖVP and the SPÖ agreed on a "Fairness Pact," with compliance to be supervised by a panel of three people, headed by Ludwig Adamovich, former head of the Constitutional Court.

The first complaint before the panel was brought by the SPÖ, who claimed that the ÖVP had stolen one of their slogans. The panel decided that this was not fair according to community standards, but not specifically forbidden by the Fairness Pact. Both parties hailed this decision as a victory for their own side.

Later, both sides complained that the other side had given out presents of tangible value (mainly chocolates) at rallies; the panel refused to consider these claims. Other complaints (commercials during the agreed-upon Easter break, tearing down and defacing posters) were withdrawn.


Fischer's campaign praised their candidate's experience as President of the Parliament, his expertise in constitutional law, and his proven ability to negotiate compromises. Ferrero's campaign suggested that as a dedicated socialist Fischer might not always show the neutrality required from a Federal President.

Ferrero's campaign pointed to her international connections, her language abilities (English, French, Italian, Spanish), and her performance as foreign minister during the period of the European Union sanctions against Austria. Fischer's campaign claimed that she had made many mistakes as a foreign minister, and expressed the fear that a conservative president would not be an appropriate counterweight to a conservative government.

In the beginning of the campaign, polls suggested a 15% lead for Fischer: during the campaign Ferrero narrowed the margin, but polls never showed a decisive lead for her.


In the 2002 parliamentary elections the conservative parties (the ÖVP and the Freedom Party of Austria, FPÖ) received 52 percent of the votes, compared to 46 percent for the SPÖ and the Greens. In this election, however, many conservative voters stayed at home, and this (together with Fischer's high personal popularity) was the reason for the lower number of votes for Ferrero. The turnout of slightly above 70% of registered voters was considered low by Austrian standards.

Candidate Party Votes %
Heinz Fischer Social Democratic Party of Austria 2,166,690 52.4
Benita Ferrero-Waldner Austrian People's Party 1,969,326 47.6
Invalid/blank votes 182,423
Total 4,318,439 100
Registered voters/turnout 6,030,982 71.6
Source: Ministry of Interior

By state

State Fischer Ferrero-Waldner Electorate Votes Valid votes Invalid votes
Burgenland 101,605 83,731 219,495 192,524 185,336 7,188
Lower Austria 468,504 459,143 1,182,362 972,769 927,647 45,122
Vienna 453,420 238,586 1,121,111 712,968 692,006 20,962
Carinthia 130,122 145,659 431,803 287,103 275,781 11,322
Steiermark 312,328 297,978 935,735 637,115 610,306 26,809
Upper Austria 372,759 337,394 1,030,703 742,714 710,153 32,561
Salzburg 106,108 129,375 370,684 244,779 235,483 9,296
Tirol 140,874 185,822 493,957 344,592 326,696 17,896
Vorarlberg 56,705 66,445 245,132 133,688 123,150 10,538
Source: European Election Database