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This article gives an overview of liberalism in Austria. It is limited to liberal parties with substantial support, mainly proved by having had representation in parliament. For inclusion in this scheme it isn't necessary that parties labeled themselves as a liberal party.

History until 1945

In the Austrian Empire a national liberal current evolved in the 19th century. Liberalism in Austria reached its peak at the time of the 1848 revolution, when civil liberty and a written constitution for the Austrian Empire were key demands of the revolutionary movement. At some times afterward, Liberals gained some influence on the policy of the government; for example, Anton von Schmerling became Minister for Justice. The liberal Constitutional Party, also known as the "German-Liberal Party", had a majority in the Austrian parliament from 1867 to 1879. It supported the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 which transformed the Empire of Austria into the Austro-Hungarian Dual monarchy and the 1867 December Constitution. The panic of 1873 and the Long Depression led to strongly anti-capitalist and anti-liberal sentiments and the liberal movement in Austria began to decline, with pan-German nationalistic ideas and parties gaining strength at the same time. Later attempts to reorganize liberalism were unsuccessful, with its remnants mostly joining forces with pan-German nationalists. This traditional association with Pan-Germanism was inherited from Austria-Hungary into the Austrian Republic; the Greater German People's Party and the Landbund represented national liberal, anti-clerical and pan-German voters. Both parties lost ground with the rise of Nazism in the 1930s and were later dissolved by the regime of Engelbert Dollfuss.

History from 1945

With the foundation of the Federation of Independents in 1949, a predominantly liberal party once again existed in Austria, but it was soon overtaken by nationalist elements and later merged in to the Freedom Party of Austria, which was founded in 1955 by former Nazis. The attraction of the party to some of its voters lay in its opposition to both the catholic clericalism of the Austrian People's Party and to the Marxism of the Social Democratic Party of Austria. Liberal politicians gained control over the Freedom Party during the years from 1980 to 1986, when it was led by Norbert Steger. However, its participation in a coalition under socialist Chancellor Fred Sinowatz brought it to the verge of extinction, which allowed Jörg Haider to take control of the party in 1986.

With the support of the remaining Pan-Germans (the appeal of whose own views has an equally small appeal to the Austrian electorate today), he transformed it into a right-wing populist, frequently immigration-sceptic party. The Freedom Party was subsequently expelled from the Liberal International, and the remaining liberals seceded to found the Liberal Forum (Liberales Forum, member LI, ELDR) in 1993. However, when the Liberal Forum lost its seats in parliament in 1999 and became a micro-party, liberalism effectively ceased to exist as a political force in Austria. In 2012 the social-liberal media, especially Der Standard, states that the Pirate Party Austria could become the new Liberal Forum.

Today

The conservative Austrian People's Party labels itself the party of open society in its manifesto. The Austrian Green Party, however, holds the most liberal views on social issues. The Alliance for the Future of Austria which was founded in 2005 as a split-off from the Freedom Party, sometimes considered itself right-libertarian ("rechtsliberal").[citation needed]

Other small parties on the liberal spectrum include the Democrats and the Social Liberals.

However, liberalism today is best represented by NEOS – The New Austria. The party calls itself a movement from the center of the people. It has been founded in October 2012 and moved into the national parliament less than one year later. In early 2014 – right before starting the election campaigns – they unified with the Liberal Forum and JuLis (Junge Liberale, Young Liberals) and form NEOS – The New Austria and Liberal Forum.

Liberal political parties in Austria

Habsburg monarchy and Austro-Hungarian Empire

First Austrian Republic

Second Austrian Republic

Liberal leaders

Liberal thinkers

In the Contributions to liberal theory the following Austrian thinkers are included:

See also

Sources