National Council

Nationalrat
27th legislative period
Type
Type
History
Founded10 November 1920 (1920-11-10)
Preceded byConstituent National Assembly
Leadership
Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP)
since 18 December 2017
Doris Bures (SPÖ)
since 9 November 2017
Norbert Hofer (FPÖ)
since 23 October 2019
Structure
Seats183
Political groups
Elections
Proportional representation
Last election
29 September 2019
Next election
Next
Meeting place
Redoute Wing (provisionally)
Hofburg Imperial Palace, Vienna
Website
parlament.gv.at

The National Council (German: Nationalrat) is one of the two houses of the Austrian Parliament and is frequently referred to as the lower house. The constitution endows the National Council with far more power than the Federal Council.

Responsibilities

The National Council is where Austria's federal legislative authority is concentrated; for a bill to become federal law, it must be resolved upon by this chamber. Bills passed by the National Council are sent to the Federal Council for corroboration. If the Federal Council approves of the bill or simply does nothing for eight weeks, the bill has succeeded. If the Federal Council vetoes the bill, the National Council may still force it into law by essentially just passing it again; a National Council resolution overruling a Federal Council objection merely has to meet a higher quorum than a regular resolution. In other words, the Federal Council does not have any real power to prevent adoption of legislation, the National Council being trivially able to override it. There are three exceptions to this rule:[1]

The approval of the National Council is also required for most of the prerogatives of the Federal Assembly to be exercised. For example, motions to call for a referendum aimed at having the President removed from office by the electorate, and motions to declare war all need a two-thirds majority in the National Council. Only motions to impeach the President can also be from the Federal Council.[2]

Elections

The 183 members of the National Council are elected by nationwide popular vote for a term of five years; each Austrian sixteen years or older on the day the election takes place is entitled to one vote. National Council elections are general elections. The voting system aims at party-list proportional representation and uses partially open lists:

In addition to voting for a party list, voters may express preference for one individual candidate in the same party list. This means it is not possible to simultaneously vote for the party list of one party but exert influence on the candidate rankings on the party list of another party. A candidate receiving sufficiently many personal votes can rise in rank on his or her district party list; voters thus have a certain degree of influence as to which particular individual wins which particular seat.

Peculiarities

Austria's federal constitution defines Austria as a semi-presidential democracy: the executive branch of government is supposed to be headed by the President, but is also answerable to the National Council. In practice, however, nearly all of the day-to-day work of governing is left to the Chancellor and Cabinet, which are dependent on the confidence of the National Council. The President has the theoretical right to name anyone eligible to serve in the National Council as a minister or Chancellor. However, the National Council's right to sack a minister or the entire cabinet makes it all but impossible for Presidents to appoint a government entirely of their own choosing or keep it in office against the will of the National Council. While the President has the theoretical authority to dissolve a hostile National Council, constitutional convention prevents this power from being exercised.

Austria accordingly functions as a parliamentary democracy: for all intents and purposes, the cabinet is subject to approval by the National Council and is responsible to it, with the president being little more than a figurehead.

A related discrepancy between Austrian constitutional theory and Austrian political practice is that the constitution defines the President of the National Council to be Austria's second highest public official, junior only to the president proper. As a practical matter, the President of the National Council is a representative of rather moderate significance: wielding less power than the president by extension means wielding less power than the Chancellor or even most federal ministers. The President of the National Council thus serves mostly as a moderator of parliamentary debate.

Latest election

Main article: 2019 Austrian legislative election

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 state

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

Current composition of the National Council

Party Members
ÖVP 71
SPÖ 40
FPÖ 31
GRÜNE 26
NEOS 15
 Total
183

See also

References

  1. ^ "The Responsibilities of the Federal Council – The Federal Council's Right of Objection". Website of the Austrian Parliament. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
  2. ^ "Federal Assembly - Responsibilities and Legal Principles". parlament.gv.at. Archived from the original on 24 March 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2010.