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
Government (97)
  •   ÖVP (71)
  •   Greens (26)

Opposition (86)

Elections
Open list 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 easily 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

Regional constituencies in Austria. State constituencies are shown in colors.
Regional constituencies in Austria. State constituencies are shown in colors.

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, however, the Chancellor, who nominally ranks third in the Austrian order of precedence, is the country's leading political figure. Thus, 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 (ÖVP) 1,789,417 37.46 +5.99 71 +9
Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) 1,011,868 21.18 –5.68 40 –12
Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) 772,666 16.17 –9.80 31 –20
The Greens – The Green Alternative (GRÜNE) 664,055 13.90 +10.10 26 +26
NEOS – The New Austria (NEOS) 387,124 8.10 +2.80 15 +5
JETZT – Pilz List (JETZT) 89,169 1.87 –2.54 0 –8
KPÖ Plus (KPÖ+) 32,736 0.69 −0.09 0 ±0
Der Wandel (WANDL) 22,168 0.46 New 0 New
Austrian Beer Party (BIER) 4,946 0.10 New 0 New
Every Vote Counts! (GILT) 1,767 0.04 −0.91 0 ±0
BZÖ Carinthia – Alliance of Patriots (BZÖ) 760 0.02 New 0 New
Socialist Left Party (SLP) 310 0.01 ±0.00 0 ±0
Christian Party of Austria (CPÖ) 260 0.01 ±0.00 0 ±0
Invalid/blank votes 58,223
Total 4,835,469 100 183 0
Registered voters/turnout 6,396,812 75.59 –4.41
Source: Austrian Interior Ministry

Results by state

State ÖVP SPÖ FPÖ Grüne NEOS PILZ Others Turnout
 Burgenland 38.3 29.4 17.3 8.1 4.9 1.3 0.8 81.4
 Carinthia 34.9 26.2 19.8 9.5 6.8 1.7 1.1 72.4
 Lower Austria 42.3 19.9 16.4 11.0 7.7 1.7 1.0 80.6
 Upper Austria 36.8 22.1 17.5 13.7 7.3 1.5 1.1 77.7
 Salzburg 46.4 16.4 13.7 12.6 8.4 1.4 1.1 76.4
 Styria 38.9 19.2 18.5 13.0 7.1 1.7 1.7 74.8
 Tyrol 45.8 13.0 14.7 14.7 8.9 1.7 1.2 71.8
 Vorarlberg 36.6 13.1 14.7 18.1 13.6 2.1 1.7 67.7
 Vienna 24.6 27.1 12.8 20.7 9.9 3.0 1.9 72.0
 Austria 37.5 21.2 16.2 13.9 8.1 1.9 1.3 75.6
Source: Austrian Interior Ministry

Historical composition of the National Council

1919-1930

  SDAPÖ
  CS
  German National Movement
  GDVP
  National Economy Bloc (GDVP+Landbund)
  Others
1919
72 69 26 3
1920
69 85 21 7 1
1923
68 82 10 5
1927
71 85 9
1930
72 66 19 8

Since 1945

  ÖVP
  SPÖ
  KPÖ
  VdU/FPÖ
  GRÜNE
  LiF
  BZÖ
  FRANK
  NEOS
  JETZT
1945
85 76 4
1949
77 67 5 16
1953
74 73 4 14
1956
82 74 3 6
1959
79 78 8
1962
81 76 8
1966
85 74 6
1970
78 81 6
1971
80 93 10
1975
80 93 10
1979
77 95 11
1983
81 90 12
1986
77 80 18 8
1990
60 80 33 10
1994
52 65 42 13 11
1995
52 71 41 9 10
1999
52 65 52 14
2002
79 69 18 17
2006
66 68 21 21 7
2008
51 57 34 20 21
2013
47 52 40 24 11 9
2017
62 52 51 10 8
2019
71 40 31 26 15

Current composition of the National Council

Main article: List of members of the National Council of Austria

Group Members Leader
Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) Sebastian Kurz
Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) Pamela Rendi-Wagner
Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) Herbert Kickl
The Greens – The Green Alternative (GRÜNE) Sigrid Maurer
NEOS – The New Austria and Liberal Forum (NEOS) Beate Meinl-Reisinger
No group affiliation
Source: National Council

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.