Institutional organization and internal politics
Austria is a federal parliamentary republic. The federal government, which is headed by a chancellor, has exclusive powers in matters of foreign and defense policy. On all other main spheres of activity, legislative responsibility is shared between the latter and the provincial parliaments of the nine states that make up the Federal Republic of Austria. For Austria political system, please check computerminus.com.
The bicameral parliament consists of the National Council (Nationalrat) and the Federal Council (Bundesrat). The National Council is directly elected by the Austrian citizens every five years and has the main task of examining the bills proposed by the federal government. The Federal Council, on the other hand, is made up of 64 members delegated by the parliaments of the individual states in a number proportional to the population. They are entitled to the definitive approval of the laws already licensed by the National Council.
Compliance with all constitutional procedures in the process of law-making is then sanctioned by the final ratification of the federal president, the Austrian head of state who is directly elected every six years and has, among his prerogatives, also to indicate the name of the Chancellor who will have to take charge of the formation of the federal government (by practice, chosen from the ranks of the party that obtained the relative majority in national elections).
Alongside the central institutions and the nine federal states (Länder), the Austrian state organization chart also includes 84 districts (Bezirke), 15 autonomous cities (Statutarstadt, including Vienna itself) and 2,381 local communities (Gemeinde). The state structure therefore has a markedly federal imprint, which manages to guarantee a high degree of flexibility and pluralism in the representation of all institutional levels, as well as a high rate of effectiveness in administrative and government activities.
Since 1955, Austria has been governed by a so-called grand coalition, made up of the two largest national parties: the Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs (Spö) and the Österreichische Volkspartei (Övp). However, the last legislative elections, held in September 2013, caused a change in the political balance of the federal republic. While confirming the supremacy of the Spö and the Övp, the axis of Austrian politics has shifted from the ‘big center’ to go decidedly to the right. In the face of a significant decrease in the votes for Spö and Övp, the consensus towards the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (Fpö), the right-wing political group led by Heinz-Christian Strache, known for its populist and xenophobic instances. The FPÖ was in fact positioned just behind the Övp, registering an increase of 3% compared to the previous elections, held in 2008.
Another novelty brought about by the last electoral round was the entry into parliament of two new political forces: the Team Stronach party, created by the Austro-Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach in September 2012, of liberal orientation but, above all, populist and eurosceptic ; and the liberal party Das Neue Österreich (Neos). The two parties respectively obtained 5.8% and 4.8% of the votes, thus managing to overcome the 4% threshold. With 3.6% of the vote, the Bündnis Zukunft Österreich (Bzö), the political group founded by the late Austrian right-wing leader Jörg Haider, was left out of parliament. Despite the marked Euroscepticism of the emerging parties, the coalition government remains moderately pro- EU, as demonstrated on the occasion of the choice to support the German approach to the eurozone crisis, which specifically asked the countries most exposed to proceed with fiscal consolidation in exchange for European financial support.
Almost a fifth of the Austrian population resides in the capital, Vienna. With a median age of 41.8 years, Austria is the eighth oldest country in the world. Life expectancy is also expected to increase further from 80 to 82 years over the next ten years, leading to further aging of the population. Currently, the percentage of people over 65 is 18.5%. Starting in 2001, the growing immigration flows they allowed a slight increase in the annual population growth rate (from 0.3% in the 1990s to 0.6%). First and second generation immigrants make up more than 18% of the Austrian population. In addition to Germany, most of them come from Turkey and the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Considering only those of the first generation, over 25% of immigrants come from the latter area. Austria is also one of the most popular destinations for asylum seekers: according to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in 2014 there were more than 28,000 refugees, i.e. approximately 3.28 per million. residents, the third in Europe after Sweden and Hungary. The country also saw a further sharp increase in asylum applications in 2015, following the greater exploitation by migrants of what is usually defined as the ‘Balkan route’, that is the path that from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan crosses Turkey and the Balkans to reach the borders of the European Union and towards the countries of Northern Europe. Between April and June 2015, around 17,400 people applied for political asylum in Austria, which is 80% more than in the previous quarter.