End of the Kreisky Era

Austria Table of Contents

During Kreisky's tenure as chancellor, Austria enjoyed unprecedented prosperity, but by the time the April 1983 election approached, the SPÖ had few fresh ideas with which to attract critical swing voters. Its image also suffered from various political and financial scandals. Its proposal for a tax hike aimed at upper-income Austrians to finance job creation was countered by the ÖVP with promises of no new taxes and more careful use of existing government tax revenues. Although the ÖVP failed to unseat the SPÖ as the largest party in the Nationalrat, the ÖVP benefited from a significant shift in voter sentiment, and the SPÖ lost its majority, winning ninety seats, which was five seats fewer than in 1979. The ÖVP gained four seats for a total of eighty-one. The FPÖ won an additional seat, for a total of twelve, despite a decline in its share of the vote. Two "green" parties, the United Greens of Austria (Vereinigte Grüne Österreichs--VGÖ) and the Alternative List of Austria (Alternative Liste Österreichs--ALÖ), sought to rally voters on environmental issues. Together they took about 3.3 percent of the vote but won no parliamentary seats.

Kreisky had campaigned strongly for an absolute majority and resigned rather than lead a coalition government. His minister of education, Fred Sinowatz, became chancellor in 1983, heading an SPÖ-FPÖ coalition. Kreisky's departure marked a major turning point in Austria's postwar history, and the Sinowatz government was to be a transitional phase into the contemporary era.

Given the scope of Austrian history and Austria's complex relationships with the other countries of Central Europe, English-language histories of Austria generally focus on particular segments of Austrian history rather than on an attempt to give equal attention to all centuries. Alexander Wigram Allen Leeper's A History of Medieval Austria is a key source for medieval history prior to the Habsburgs. The Habsburg Empire, 1790-1918 by Carlile Aylmer Macartney is an excellent and inclusive treatment of the late history of the Habsburg Empire, although its level of detail and thoroughness may be more than the casual reader desires. Robert A. Kann's A History of the Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918 is a more accessible text, focusing on broader themes rather than on the minutiae of history. Robert John Weston Evans's The Making of the Habsburg Monarchy, 1550-1700 also takes a thematic approach but covers only a portion of the Habsburg centuries. However, it provides a useful examination of the intellectual underpinnings of the Habsburg state.

Barbara Jelavich has written two excellent books covering the post-1815 era: The Habsburg Empire in European Affairs, 1814-1918 and Modern Austria: Empire and Republic, 1815-1986. Their relative brevity and conciseness make them excellent overviews.

The selection of books covering specific topics is growing steadily. Of particular interest and merit are Samuel R. Williamson, Jr.'s Austria-Hungary and the Origins of the First World War; Radomir Luza's two books, Austro-German Relations in the Anschluss Era and The Resistance in Austria, 1938-1945; and Alfred D. Low's The Anschluss Movement, 1918-1938.

For those interested in more current history, Melanie A. Sully's A Contemporary History of Austria focuses on the post-Kreisky era.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress