Austria News & Current Events
Failed Coalitions Hinder the Republic's Government
In Sept. 2002, the coalition between the People's Party and the Freedom Party dissolved after a shake-up in the Freedom Party, instigated by Haider. In Nov. 2002, the People's Party made large gains in general elections. After failed coalition talks with other parties, the People's Party again formed a government with the Freedom Party in Feb. 2003. A government plan to overhaul the country's pension program led to widespread strikes in May and June 2003—the first national strikes in decades.
In 2004, Heinz Fischer, known as the “left conscience” of the Social Democrat Party, was elected to the largely ceremonial role of president.
Austria's tough laws against Nazi propaganda led to a three-year prison sentence for infamous British historian David Irving, who pleaded guilty in Feb. 2006 to denying the Holocaust. In Dec. 2006, he was released from prison early, and deported to England.
Three months after elections, Austria's two main parties formed a coalition government in Jan. 2007. The leader of the Social Democrats, Alfred Gusenbauer, became chancellor.
Parliament passed a law in June 2007 that lowered the voting age in Austria to 16.
Infighting Causes Government Collapse
On July 7, 2008, the Austrian government collapsed after months of struggling between the two major political parties, the Social Democratic Party and the People's Party. Elections are expected to be held in September. The chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer, announced that he would not run for reelection. The new Social Democratic Party leader and transport minister, Werner Faymann, will be the Social Democrat candidate.
In September 2008, the right-wing parties made tremendous gains in parliamentary elections. The Social Democratic Party of Austria won 29.3% of the vote (57 of 183 seats), the Austrian People's Party 26% (51), the Freedom Party of Austria 17.5% (34), the Alliance for the Future of Austria 10.7% (21), the Greens 10.4% (20), and the Liberal Forum 2.1% (0). Turnout was 78.8%. On October 8, 2008, Faymann was asked by President Fischer to form a new government.
On October 11, 2008, during a crucial time in Austrian politics, the leader of the far-right Alliance for the Future of Austria, Jorg Haider, died in a car crash. On November 23, 2008, a coalition was agreed upon. Faymann began serving as Chancellor of Austria on December 2, 2008.
Parliament Passes Controversial Reforms to Regulate Islam
In Feb. 2015, the Austrian parliament passed controversial reforms in an effort to control Islamist radicalism. The reforms were to the 1912 law that made Islam an official religion in Austria. The new legislation bans any foreign funding for mosques or imams. However, there were no similar bans made for other religions. For example, Christians could still receive foreign funding for their churches.
The new legislation was condemned internationally. Mehmet Gormez, leader of Turkey's religious affairs, released this statement, “Austria will go back 100 years in freedom with its Islam bill.” In Austria, there are roughly half a million Muslims, about 6% of the population.