Social Democratic Party of Austria

Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs
ChairwomanPamela Rendi-Wagner
Parliamentary leaderPamela Rendi-Wagner
Managing directorChristian Deutsch [de]
Notable deputy chairpersons
FounderVictor Adler
Founded1 January 1889; 132 years ago (1889-01-01)[1]
HeadquartersLöwelstraße 18 A-1014 Vienna, Austria
Student wingSocialist Students of Austria
Youth wingSocialist Youth Austria
Paramilitary wingRepublikanischer Schutzbund (1923-1934)
Membership (2017)180,000[2]
IdeologySocial democracy[3][4]
Political positionCentre-left[5][6][7]
European affiliationParty of European Socialists
International affiliationProgressive Alliance
Socialist International
European Parliament groupProgressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
Colours  Red
"Lied der Arbeit"[8]
"Song of Labour"
National Council
40 / 183
Federal Council
19 / 61
3 / 9
State cabinets
6 / 9
State diets
137 / 440
European Parliament
5 / 19

The Social Democratic Party of Austria (German: Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs, SPÖ), founded and known as the Social Democratic Workers' Party of Austria (German: Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Österreichs, SDAPÖ) until 1945 and later the Socialist Party of Austria (German: Sozialistische Partei Österreichs) until 1991,[9] is a social-democratic[3][4] and pro-European[10] political party in Austria. Founded in 1889, it is the oldest extant political party in Austria. Along with the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), it is one of the country's two traditional major parties.

Since November 2018, the party has been led by Pamela Rendi-Wagner. It is currently the second largest of five parties in the National Council, with 40 of the 183 seats, and won 21.2% of votes cast in the 2019 legislative election. It holds seats in the legislatures of all nine states; of these, it is the largest party in three (Burgenland, Carinthia, and Vienna.) The SPÖ is a member of the Socialist International, Progressive Alliance, and Party of European Socialists. It sits with the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament; of Austria's 19 MEPs, five are members of the SPÖ. The party has close ties to the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) and the Austrian Chamber of Labour (AK).

The SPADÖ was the second largest party in the Imperial Council of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the 1890s through 1910s. After the First World War, it briefly governed the First Austrian Republic, but thereafter returned to opposition. The party was banned in 1934 following the Austrian Civil War, and was suppressed throughout Austrofascism and the Nazi period. The party was refounded as the Socialist Party of Austria in 1945 and governed as a junior partner of the ÖVP until 1966. In 1970, the SPÖ became the largest party for the first time in post-war history, and Bruno Kreisky became Chancellor, winning three consecutive majorities (1971, 1975, and 1979). From 1987 to 2000 the SPÖ led a grand coalition with the ÖVP before returning to opposition for the first time in 30 years. The party governed again from 2007 to 2017. Since 2017, the SPÖ have been the primary opposition to the ÖVP governments.


Main article: History of Social Democracy in Austria

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Since its foundation in 1889, the SDAPÖ has been one of the main political forces in Austria. At the start of the First World War, it was the strongest party in parliament. At the ending of that war in 1918, the party leader Karl Renner became Chancellor of the First Republic. The SDAPÖ lost power in 1920, but it retained a strong base of support in the capital Vienna. A period of rising political violence culminated in the banning of the SDAPÖ under the Austrofascist dictatorship (1934–1938).

In the aftermath of the collapse of Austria-Hungary in 1918, the SDAPÖ broadly supported the Anschluss (the union with German Republic). When Anschluss took place in 1938 at the hands of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany, he brought Austria into the Second World War. In 1945, the party was reconstituted as the Socialist Party of Austria (German: Sozialistische Partei Österreichs, SPÖ) and was led by Adolf Schärf. The SPÖ entered the government of the Second Republic as part of a grand coalition with the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) until 1966 and with the Communist Party of Austria until 1949. Renner became the first President of Austria.

From 1971 to 1983, the SPÖ under Bruno Kreisky was the sole governing party. For the following three years, it ruled in coalition with the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), then up to 2000 it was again part of a grand coalition with the ÖVP, with Franz Vranitzky as Chancellor until 1997. In 1991, it reverted to including Democratic in its name, becoming the Social Democratic Party of Austria (German: Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs). During this period, the grand coalition combined with the Proporz system, whereby important posts throughout the government were shared out between members of the two main parties, evoked rising discontent. This was a factor in the growing popularity of the FPÖ which came second to the SPÖ in the 1999 Austrian legislative election. The following year, the FPÖ and ÖVP formed a right-wing coalition, displacing the SPÖ from a share in government. While this coalition was still in power, the SPÖ's Heinz Fischer was elected president in the 2004 Austrian presidential election. Following the 2006 Austrian legislative election, another grand coalition was formed between the SPÖ and the ÖVP, lasting until 2017, when the SPÖ went back to the opposition. In the 2019 Austrian legislative election, the SPÖ lost 12 seats and shrunk to 21.2%.

Confronting the past of 1938–1945

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Concerning the role of the SDAPÖ during Nazi rule from 1938 to 1945, the party started opening its archives and set in a commission to investigate its past conduct. Despite the fact the SDAPÖ had been outlawed and many party members imprisoned under Austrofascism, many SDAPÖ members initially welcomed the Anschluss of Austria into Germany back then and some became members of the Nazi Party. Alfred Gusenbauer issued a declaration promising and supporting a full and open investigation ("Klarheit in der Vergangenheit – Basis für die Zukunft"). In 2005, the report about the so-called "brown spots" (German: braune Flecken) was completed and published. The report talks about SDAPÖ members and leaders who became members of the Nazi Party during German rule after the Anschluss. One example given in the report is the case of Heinrich Gross, who received many honours from the party and even the government in the post-war period. This was despite the fact that he worked as a Nazi doctor in the euthanasia ward Am Spiegelgrund in Vienna, where human experiments on children were performed. Those children with presumptive mental defects were eventually killed, often by lethal injection. Gross was probably himself involved in the experimentations and killings. The Austrian judicial system protected him for a very long time from any kind of prosecution, something that was very typical in the post-war period. He enjoyed wide support from the SPÖ and party leaders for a very long time.

Reflecting the change in attitude towards the past, President Heinz Fischer in a 10 April 2006 interview with the liberal newspaper Der Standard strongly criticised Austria's view on its historical role during Nazi rule. He called the traditional view that Austria was the first victim of Nazi aggression as false. The Moscow Declaration of 1943 by émigrés which called for the independence of Austria from Nazi Germany was a problem since it stated that the war was neither started nor wanted by any Austrian ("Und das ist nicht richtig"), that Austrian Jewish victims were not mentioned in the declaration ("kein Wort für die jüdischen Opfer"), that it took decades for them to receive any kind of compensation and justice from the government and that it was regrettable and inexcusable. His statements were direct criticism of the right-wing government of the coalition ÖVP–FPÖ which rejected compensation to victims and the admission of the co-guilt Austrians carried for crimes committed by them during the Second World War.

Election results by states

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This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (January 2020)


Burgenland is a state that is a traditional stronghold of the SPÖ. Since 1964, the governors of this easternmost state have come from the SPÖ. Burgenland is one of the few states that are ruled by a SPÖ majority in the state assembly (Landtag). In 2000, the SPÖ received 46.6%. In 2005, it received 5.2% more votes and ended up with an absolute majority of 51.8%. After losing it in 2010, the SPÖ was able to regain it in the latest election in January 2020. From 2015 to 2020, the SPÖ in Burgenland was in an unusual coalition with the FPÖ. The Governor (Landeshauptmann) of the Burgenland is Hans-Peter Doskozil.


The SPÖ used to be strong in Carinthia as it regularly won the most seats in state elections and the governors used to be Social Democrats until 1989. Since the rise of Jörg Haider and his FPÖ, he successfully pushed the SPÖ out of their leading position. In state elections in 1999, the SPÖ received 32.9%. However, this went up to 38.4% in 2004. Until 2005, the SPÖ was in a coalition with the right-wing FPÖ in Carinthia, where Haider was Governor. This constellation is in question after the chairperson of the Carinthian SPÖ Gabi Schauning decided to resign from her post as Vice-Governor of Carinthia after a fall-out with Haider. Carinthia has a mandatory concentration government, where each party with a certain number of seats in the state parliament automatically participates in the state government. The term coalition refers to the co-operation between parties and not to the participation in the state cabinet.

Lower Austria

In Lower Austria, the SPÖ received 29.2% in 1998. It increased its shares by 3.2% in 2003 and ended up with 32.4%. In the 2008 Lower Austrian state election, the SPÖ received 25.5% of the vote.


In 2004. the SPÖ won a surprising victory in Salzburg. It was able to increase its share of votes from 32.2% (1999) to 45.3%. For the first time, the conservative ÖVP lost its traditional dominant position. Gabi Burgstaller became the first SPÖ governess (Landeshauptfrau) in the state's history. In March 2009, the party lost 2 seats (from 17 to 15) with a 39.5% of the popular votes, going to the FPÖ (from 3 to 5) with a 13% of the votes. The ÖVP had 14 seats with a 36.5% of the votes and the Grüne 2 seat with a 7.3% . The BZÖ had no seat with a 3.7% of the votes, showing a growing of the right-wing parties.


Styria was traditionally ruled by the ÖVP. In 2000, the Styrian SPÖ ended up with 32.3%. In 2005, the voters shifted towards the left, something that also benefited the KPÖ, the local communist party. The SPÖ won 9.4% more and ended up with 40.7%, defeating the ÖVP which got 38.7% of the votes. Styrian SPÖ Chairman Franz Voves became the state Governor.


In Tyrol, the SPÖ receive few votes since the state is a traditional conservative stronghold. In 1999, the Tyrolean SPÖ received 22.8% of all votes. In 2003, it increased its share by 3.1% to 25.9%.

Upper Austria

In 2003, the SPÖ was able to raise its voters share in Upper Austria by 11.3% from 27% (1997) to 38.3%. It was in a grand coalition with the ÖVP in the state government as the junior partner, with four out of nine of the state government ministers coming from the SPÖ.


Vienna was always traditionally the stronghold of the SPÖ. In the 1996 city council (Gemeinderat) elections, the SPÖ lost many votes to the FPÖ. It received around 39% of all votes, the FPÖ around 27.9% and the ÖVP 15.2%. This changed in 2001, when the SPÖ jumped to 46.9% and the FPÖ shrank to 20.1% and again in 2005 when the SPÖ gained to 49% and the FPÖ shrank further to 14.8%. The 2005 results meant that the SPÖ was able to hold the majority of seats in the Vienna city council and rule by itself without coalition partners. The current Governor-Mayor of Vienna is Michael Ludwig.


Vorarlberg is a traditional stronghold of the conservative ÖVP. Of all the Austrian states, the SPÖ receives the fewest votes in this westernmost state. In 1999, the SPÖ received 12.9%, but it was able to raise its share of votes in 2004 by 3.9% and ended up with 16.8%.

Chairpersons since 1945

Main article: List of chairpersons of the SPÖ and SDAPÖ

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The chart below shows a timeline of the social-democratic chairpersons and the Chancellors of Austria since 1945. The left bar shows all the chairpersons (Bundesparteivorsitzende, abbreviated as CP) of the SPÖ, and the right bar shows the corresponding make-up of the Austrian government at that time. The red (SPÖ) and black (ÖVP) colours correspond to which party led the federal government (Bundesregierung, abbreviated as Govern.). The last names of the respective chancellors are shown, with the Roman numeral standing for the cabinets.

Second Kurz governmentBierlein governmentFirst Kurz governmentKern governmentSecond Faymann governmentFirst Faymann governmentGusenbauer governmentSecond Schüssel governmentWolfgang SchüsselViktor KlimaFranz VranitzkyFred SinowatzBruno KreiskyJosef KlausAlfons GorbachJulius RaabLeopold FiglKarl RennerPamela Rendi-WagnerChristian KernWerner FaymannAlfred GusenbauerViktor KlimaFranz VranitzkyFred SinowatzBruno KreiskyBruno PittermannAdolf Schärf

Select list of other SPÖ politicians

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Minority factions

Some groups within the SPÖ such as Der Funke (The Spark) are Marxist and proponents of a radical strain of democratic socialism.[citation needed] SJ Austria, a youth organisation maintaining close relations with the party, is generally perceived of as being more towards the left-wing than the SPÖ itself.[citation needed]

Election results

Imperial Council

Imperial Council
Election year No. of total votes % of overall vote No. of seats Government
1891 3,848 (12th) 1.2%
0 / 353
No seats
1897 245,001 (2nd) 23.1%
14 / 425
In opposition
1900–1901 251,652 (2nd) 23.3%
12 / 425
In opposition
1907 513,219 (2nd) 11.1%
50 / 516
In opposition
1911 542,549 (2nd) 11.9%
46 / 516
In opposition

Constituent National Assembly

Constituent National Assembly
Election year No. of total votes % of overall vote No. of seats Government
1919 1,211,814 (1st) 40.8%
72 / 170
SPÖ–CS majority

National Council

National Council
Election year No. of total votes % of overall vote No. of seats Government
1920 1,072,709 (2nd) 36.0%
69 / 183
In opposition
1923 1,311,870 (2nd) 39.6%
68 / 165
In opposition
1927 1,539,635 (2nd) 43.3%
71 / 165
In opposition
1930 1,517,146 (1st) 41.1%
72 / 165
In opposition
1945 1,434,898 (2nd) 44.6%
76 / 165
ÖVP–SPÖ–KPÖ majority
1949 1,623,524 (2nd) 38.7%
67 / 165
ÖVP–SPÖ majority
1953 1,818,517 (1st) 42.1%
73 / 165
ÖVP–SPÖ majority
1956 1,873,295 (2nd) 43.0%
74 / 165
ÖVP–SPÖ majority
1959 1,953,935 (1st) 44.8%
78 / 165
ÖVP–SPÖ majority
1962 1,960,685 (2nd) 44.0%
76 / 165
ÖVP–SPÖ majority
1966 1,928,985 (2nd) 42.6%
74 / 165
In opposition
1970 2,221,981 (1st) 48.4%
81 / 165
SPÖ minority
1971 2,280,168 (1st) 50.0%
93 / 183
SPÖ majority
1975 2,326,201 (1st) 50.1%
93 / 183
SPÖ majority
1979 2,413,226 (1st) 51.0%
95 / 183
SPÖ majority
1983 2,312,529 (1st) 47.6%
90 / 183
SPÖ–FPÖ majority
1986 2,092,024 (1st) 43.1%
80 / 183
SPÖ–ÖVP majority
1990 2,012,787 (1st) 42.8%
80 / 183
SPÖ–ÖVP majority
1994 1,617,804 (1st) 34.9%
65 / 183
SPÖ–ÖVP majority
1995 1,843,474 (1st) 38.1%
71 / 183
SPÖ–ÖVP majority
1999 1,532,448 (1st) 33.2%
65 / 183
In opposition
2002 1,792,499 (2nd) 36.5%
69 / 183
In opposition
2006 1,663,986 (1st) 35.3%
68 / 183
SPÖ–ÖVP majority
2008 1,430,206 (1st) 29.3%
57 / 183
SPÖ–ÖVP majority
2013 1,258,605 (1st) 26.8%
52 / 183
SPÖ–ÖVP majority
2017 1,351,918 (2nd) 26.9%
52 / 183
In opposition
2019 1,011,868 (2nd) 21.2%
40 / 183
In opposition


Federal Presidency of the Republic of Austria
Election Candidate First round result Second round result
Votes %Votes Result Votes %Votes Result
1951 Theodor Körner 1,682,881 39.1% Runner-up 2,178,631 52.1% Won
1957 Adolf Schärf 2,258,255 51.1% Won
1963 Adolf Schärf 2,473,349 55.4% Won
1965 Franz Jonas 2,324,436 50.7% Won
1971 Franz Jonas 2,487,239 52.8% Won
1974 Rudolf Kirchschläger 2,392,367 51.7% Won
1980 Rudolf Kirchschläger 3,538,748 79.9% Won
1986 Kurt Steyrer 2,061,104 43.7% Runner-up 2,107,023 46.1% Lost
1992 Rudolf Streicher 1,888,599 40.7% Runner-up 1,915,380 41.1% Lost
1998 No candidate
2004 Heinz Fischer 2,166,690 52.4% Won
2010 Heinz Fischer 2,508,373 79.3% Won
2016 Rudolf Hundstorfer 482,790 11.3% 4th place

European Parliament

European Parliament
Election year No. of total votes % of overall vote No. of seats
1996 1,105,910 (2nd) 29.2%
6 / 21
1999 888,338 (1st) 31.7%
7 / 21
2004 833,517 (1st) 33.3%
7 / 18
2009 680,041 (2nd) 23.7%
4 / 17
2014 680,180 (2nd) 24.1%
5 / 18
2019 903,151 (2nd) 23.9%
5 / 18

State Parliaments

State Year Votes % Seats Government
No. ± Pos.
Burgenland 2020 92,633 49.9 (1st) Increase
19 / 36
Increase 4 Steady 1st SPÖ majority
Carinthia 2018 140,994 47.9 (1st) Increase
18 / 36
Increase 4 Steady 1st SPÖ–ÖVP
Lower Austria 2018 217,289 23.9 (2nd) Increase
13 / 56
Steady 0 Steady 2nd ÖVP–SPÖ–FPÖ
Salzburg 2018 50,175 20.0 (2nd) Decrease
8 / 36
Decrease 1 Steady 2nd Opposition
Styria 2019 138,572 23.0 (2nd) Decrease
12 / 48
Decrease 3 Decrease 2nd ÖVP–SPÖ
Tyrol 2018 55,223 17.2 (2nd) Increase
6 / 36
Increase 1 Steady 2nd Opposition
Upper Austria 2015 159,753 18.4 (3rd) Decrease
11 / 56
Decrease 3 Decrease 3rd ÖVP–FPÖ–SPÖ–Grüne
Vienna 2020 301,967 41.6 (1st) Increase
46 / 100
Increase 2 Steady 1st SPÖ–NEOS
Vorarlberg 2019 15,635 9.5 (4th) Increase
4 / 36
Increase 1 Steady 4th Opposition

See also


  1. ^ "Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs". ParlGov Database. Holger Döring and Philip Manow. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  2. ^ "Veränderte Zeiten" [Changed times]. ORF. 2017. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  3. ^ a b Nordsieck, Wolfram (2019). "Austria". Parties and Elections in Europe.
  4. ^ a b Dimitri Almeida (27 April 2012). The Impact of European Integration on Political Parties: Beyond the Permissive Consensus. CRC Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-136-34039-0. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  5. ^ Connolly, Kate; Oltermann, Philip; Henley, Jon (23 May 2016). "Austria elects Green candidate as president in narrow defeat for far right". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  6. ^ "The Latest: Election tally shows Austria turning right". The Washington Times. Associated Press. 15 October 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  7. ^ Oliphant, Roland; Csekö, Balazs (5 December 2016). "Austrian far-right defiant as Freedom Party claims 'pole position' for general election: 'Our time comes'". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  8. ^ Hochman, Erin R. (2016). Imagining a Greater Germany: Republican Nationalism and the Idea of Anschluss. Cornell University Press. p. 115. ISBN 9781501706066.
  9. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Austria: Transport and telecommunications - history - geography". Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  10. ^ "SPOE Partei Programm" (PDF) (in German). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 November 2012. (458 KiB) Party platform, see articles I.(1) and III.7.(1): "strive for a society that overcomes class antagonisms", "only the advancement of political to economic, and therefore social, democracy establishes the precondition for the realization of our basic principles".[dead link]