Elections and Parties

Austria Table of Contents

The outcome of the four parliamentary elections between 1955 and 1970 hinged on relatively small changes in the division of the votes. The ÖVP consistently held the largest number of seats in the Nationalrat and thus leadership of the ÖVP-SPÖ coalition, the so-called grand coalition, even though in the 1959 election it polled fewer votes than the SPÖ. Prior to the 1966 election, the share of the vote received by the ÖVP fluctuated between 44 and 46 percent. By achieving an increase to 48 percent in 1966, the party was able to win eighty-five parliamentary seats, an absolute majority. Julius Raab served as chancellor between 1953 and 1961, when he was replaced by Alphons Gorbach. Gorbach brought some younger politicians into the party's leadership, where they began to press for reforms. One of these younger men, Josef Klaus, replaced Gorbach as chancellor in 1964 and headed the ÖVP government between 1966 and 1970. His rise, coming about the same time as the deaths of Raab and Figl, marked the passing of party leadership to a younger generation that had not experienced the trauma of the 1930s.

The SPÖ saw its share of the vote fluctuate between 42 and 45 percent over the course of the four elections. Although the SPÖ held the position of junior partner in the coalition, the electorate consistently gave the presidency of the republic to the SPÖ following reinstitution of direct elections for that post in 1951. Theodor Körner, who had succeeded Renner in 1951, died in office prior to the 1957 presidential election. Schärf, who had been chairman of the SPÖ since 1945, handily won the 1957 election and was reelected in 1963. When he died in 1965, he was succeeded by the Socialist mayor of Vienna, Franz Jonas.

The VdU was reorganized in 1956 as the Freedom Party of Austria (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs--FPÖ). Its share of the vote ranged from about 5 percent to 8 percent. The party drew on a diverse base of voters that included liberals, anticlerical conservatives, monarchists, and former Nazis.

The KPÖ was hurt by its association with the Soviet Union and by events in Eastern Europe, particularly the Soviet invasion of Hungary. The party's already small share of the vote continued to decline, from about 4.5 percent in 1956 to just over 3 percent in 1962. After 1959 the KPÖ held no seats in the Nationalrat.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress