Austrian People's Party

The Austrian People's Party (German: Österreichische Volkspartei, or ÖVP) is an Austrian political party. A successor to the 19th-century Austrian Christian Social Party, it is roughly comparable to the German Christian Democratic Union in terms of both platform and voter demographics, though more explicitly Catholic. The People's Party was founded immediately following the reestablishment of the Federal Republic of Austria in 1945 and has been a major player in Austrian politics ever since.


With regard to social policy the Austrian People's Party is a classical conservative movement, running on a platform of respect for tradition and stability of social order. In particular, it is expressly not interested in strengthening Austria's incomplete separation of church and state and appears to be somewhat skeptical of affirmative action, gay rights, and other forms of real or perceived social engineering. For most of its existence, the People's Party has explicitly defined itself as Catholic and anti-socialist; the ideal of subsidiarity as defined by the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno is generally considered one of the historical cornerstones of its agenda.

For the first election after World War 2, ÖVP presented itself as the Austrian Party („die österreichische Partei“), was decidedly anti-Marxist and regarded itself as the Party of the Middle („Partei der Mitte“). The ÖVP held permanently power either alone or in so-called Black-Red coalition with the Socialists until year 1970, when the Socialists formed their own minority government with FPÖ support. The ÖVP economic policies during the era can be described as Social market economy.

Nowadays, with regard to economic policy, the People's Party is advocating liberalisation of economy, endorsing the reduction of Austria's relatively large public sector, welfare reform, and general deregulation. With regard to foreign affairs, it strongly supports European integration. Over the last two decades, the People's party has also adopted a more pronouncedly environmentalist stance than is typical for conservative movements.

The People's Party's position within the traditional political spectrum is hard to mark down. On the one hand, its views on economic policy are slightly right-of-center if seen in the context of Europe's political landscape, and its views on social policy are right-of-center in the context of the political landscape of almost any Western democracy.

On the other hand, its views on economic policy are still arguably closer to those of classical social democracy than to those of classical laissez-faire capitalism, and it advocates decidedly more economic interventionism than most ostensibly left-wing parties in Europe. Party leaders and intellectuals have been known to approvingly comment on select aspects of economic philosophies like those of Margaret Thatcher or Friedrich Hayek, but the party's rank and file mostly do not follow suit. While the party is seen as more or less rightist by many Austrians and other Europeans, it would appear centrist or possibly even leftist to most American observers. It is a member of the European People's Party (EPP).


The Austrian People's Party is popular mainly among white collar employees, large and small business owners, and farmers. In particular, it is backed by a majority of Austria's civil servants, a remarkably large and influential group due to the size and scope of Austria's government bureaucracy. Austria's blue collar workers, by comparison, tend to endorse the Social Democratic Party and the Freedom Party. All in all, People's Party supporters are comparatively educated and affluent. As its supporters like to point out, the People's Party enjoys growing popularity with younger voters according to a number of recent public opinion polls.


The Austrian People's Party is the successor of the Christian Social Party, a staunchly conservative movement founded in 1893 by Karl Lueger, mayor of Vienna and highly controversial right-wing populist. Most of the members of the Austrian People's party during its founding belonged to the former Fatherland Front, which was led by the late Engelbert Dollfuss, also a member of the Christian Social Party before the Anschluss. In its present form, the People's Party was established immediately after the restoration of Austria's independence in 1945; it has been represented in both the Federal Assembly ever since. In terms of Federal Assembly seats, the People's Party has consistently been the strongest or second-strongest party; as such, it has led or at least been a partner in most Austria's federal cabinets.

The People's Party has also been consistently controlling the state governments of the rural and strongly Catholic states of Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, and Vorarlberg. It is less popular in the city state of Vienna and in the rural but less strongly Catholic states of Burgenland and Carinthia. In 2004 it lost its plurality in the State of Salzburg and in 2005 in Styria for the first time. All things considered, the People's Party would have been near-incontestably dominating Austrian politics had it not been not for the comparatively populous and solidly social democratic metropolis of Vienna.

After the Austrian legislative election, 1999, the People's Party formed in 2000 a coalition government with the right-wing populist Austrian Freedom Party of its then-leader Jörg Haider. This caused widespread outrage in Europe, and fourteen members of the European Union imposed informal diplomatic sanctions against Austria's federal administration. A few months later, these sanctions were dropped as a result of a fact-finding mission by three former European prime ministers, the so-called "three wise men". In November 2002, general elections resulted in a landslide victory (42.27% of the vote) for the People's Party under the leadership of Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel. Haider's Freedom Party, which in 1999 was slightly stronger than Schüssel's party, was reduced to 10.16% of the vote. In the 2006 elections the People's Party were defeated and after much negotiations agreed to become part of a coalition government with the Socialists with new Party Chairman Wilhelm Molterer as Finance Minister and Vice-Chancellor under Socialist Alfred Gusenbauer who became Chancellor.

In the recent past, the People’s Party had to face increasing criticism among the public opinion, due to their persistence on their own point-of-view in several political topics (e.g. in matters of reforming the Austrian school system) This apparent unwillingness to negotiate or to make compromises within the coalition has caused political satire both among journalists and opponents.

Chairpersons since 1945

The chart below shows a timeline of the Christian Democratic chairpersons and the Chancellors of Austria. The left black bar shows all the chairpersons (Bundesparteiobleute, abbreviated as "CP") of the ÖVP party, 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, the Roman numeral stands for the cabinets.

ImageSize = width:400 height:530 PlotArea = width:350 height:450 left:50 bottom:50 Legend = columns:3 left:50 top:25 columnwidth:50

DateFormat = yyyy Period = from:1945 till:2008 TimeAxis = orientation:vertical ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:5 start:1945

  1. there is no automatic collision detection,
  2. so shift texts up or down manually to avoid overlap


 id:ÖVP  value:gray(0.25) legend:ÖVP
 id:SPÖ  value:red    legend:SPÖ

  1. id:FPÖ value:blue legend:FPÖ

Define $dx = 25 # shift text to right side of bar Define $dy = -4 # adjust height


 bar:CP color:red width:25 mark:(line,white) align:left fontsize:S

 from:1945  till:1945 shift:($dx,1)    color:ÖVP    text:Leopold Kunschak
 from:1945  till:1952 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Leopold Figl
 from:1952  till:1960 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Julius Raab
 from:1960  till:1963 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Alfons Gorbach
 from:1963  till:1970 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Josef Klaus
 from:1970  till:1971 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Hermann Withalm
 from:1971  till:1975 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Karl Schleinzer
 from:1975  till:1979 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Josef Taus
 from:1979  till:1989 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Alois Mock
 from:1989  till:1991 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Josef Riegler
 from:1991  till:1995 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Erhard Busek
 from:1995  till:2007 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Wolfgang Schüssel
 from:2007  till:end shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Wilhelm Molterer

 bar:Govern. color:red width:25 mark:(line,white) align:left fontsize:7

 from:1945  till:1946 shift:($dx,-2)    color:SPÖ    text:Renner
 from:1946  till:1949 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Figl I
 from:1949  till:1952 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Figl II
 from:1952  till:1953 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Figl III
 from:1953  till:1956 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Raab I
 from:1956  till:1959 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Raab II
 from:1959  till:1960 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Raab III
 from:1960  till:1961 shift:($dx,-2)    color:ÖVP    text:Raab IV
 from:1961  till:1963 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Gorbach I
 from:1963  till:1964 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Gorbach II
 from:1964  till:1966 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Klaus I
 from:1966  till:1970 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Klaus II
 from:1970  till:1971 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:SPÖ    text:Kreisky I
 from:1971  till:1975 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:SPÖ    text:Kreisky II
 from:1975  till:1979 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:SPÖ    text:Kreisky III
 from:1979  till:1983 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:SPÖ    text:Kreisky IV
 from:1983  till:1986 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:SPÖ    text:Sinowatz
 from:1986  till:1987 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:SPÖ    text:Vranitzky I
 from:1987  till:1990 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:SPÖ    text:Vranitzky II
 from:1990  till:1994 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:SPÖ    text:Vranitzky III
 from:1994  till:1996 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:SPÖ    text:Vranitzky IV
 from:1996  till:1997 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:SPÖ    text:Vranitzky V
 from:1997  till:2000 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:SPÖ    text:Klima
 from:2000  till:2003 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Schüssel I
 from:2003  till:2007 shift:($dx,$dy)    color:ÖVP    text:Schüssel II
 from:2007  till:end shift:($dx,$dy)    color:SPÖ    text:Gusenbauer


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