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Meetings Calendar 2006
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Legislation

 

 

Legislation at federal level

Legislative powers are exercised by the National Council in conjunction with the Federal Council. The National Council has primary responsibility for legislation, while the Federal Council can invoke a suspensive veto against legislation by the National Council.

National Council

The National Council is a general representative body, which means that it represents all citizens, irrespective of their personal situation. The National Council has 183 members. The Members of the National Council are completely free in exercising their activity and are not bound by any instructions.

A full legislative period lasts four years, beginning with the constituent meeting of the newly elected National Council.

Competences of the National Council:

  • Legislation: this is the most important competence of the National Council, exercised in conjunction with the Federal Council
  • Approval of state treaties
  • Participation in the exercise of executive powers
  • Monitoring of executive powers

Election of the National Council

The election of the National Council is an essential component of the basic principle of democracy. In Austria the right to vote is:

  • Universal: all Austrian citizens who turn 18 no later than the end of the day of the vote have the active right to vote.
  • Equal: each vote counts as a single vote.
  • Direct: the representatives are directly elected by the voters and not by delegates.
  • Secret: votes are cast in private.
  • Personal: voters must cast their votes in person; proxies are not permitted.
  • Proportional representation: the parties receive seats in proportion to the number of votes they receive.

Since 1992 the electoral procedure has been marked by an increase in the role of the direct election of candidates. The seats being contested are allocated to the individual voting districts. There are nine federal voting districts and 43 regional voting districts. The seats are allocated in proportion to the population of the voting districts in accordance with the results of the past census.

Participation of the National Council in decision-making in the EU

With Austria’s participation, the Council of the European Union may enact legislation that is as binding on Austria as its own internal laws without having been enacted by the National Council. If an initiative of this nature is undertaken by the European Union, and the subject matter would fall by law within the legislative competence of the federal government, the National Council may issue an opinion to the responsible Federal Minister that binds that Minister in the negotiations and voting in the Council of the European Union. The Main Committee of the National Council performs this task.

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Federal Council

The Federal Council is the second chamber of the parliament and represents the provinces. Its members are elected by the provincial assemblies after each provincial assembly election. The number of members is determined by the Federal President at the proposal of the federal government in accordance with the results of each census (most recently in 2002). The largest federal province (currently Lower Austria) has 12 members, and the other federal provinces have a correspondingly smaller number of members in accordance with their populations, with a minimum of three (currently Burgenland and Vorarlberg). The Federal Council currently has 62 members.

Competence:

  • The most important competence of the Federal Council is enacting legislation, exercised in conjunction with the National Council.

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Federal Assembly

The National Council and Federal Council together comprise the Federal Assembly.

Competences of the Federal Assembly:

  • Swearing in of the Federal President
  • Decision to hold a referendum to remove the Federal President from office
  • Approval of prosecution of the Federal President by the authorities
  • Indictment of the Federal President at the Constitutional Court
  • Declarations of war

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Legislation at provincial level

The legislative bodies at provincial level are the provincial assemblies. In contrast to the federal legislature, the provincial legislature is structured according to the unicameral system. The provincial assembly, like the National Council, is a general representative body.

The same voting principles apply to the provincial assembly elections as apply to the election of the National Council. Citizens are entitled to vote in the provincial assembly elections for the province of their primary residence. The electoral regulations of the different provincial assemblies govern the precise provisions as to the voting age and voting obligation.

The term of the legislature is six years in Upper Austria and five years in all the other provinces.

Competences of the provincial assemblies:

  • Provincial legislation
  • Election of the provincial government
  • Election of the Federal Council
  • Where appropriate, powers to monitor and participate in implementing executive decisions

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Date: 31.12.2005