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Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP#

Oesterreichische Volkspartei, OeVP (Austrian People's Party), founded in Vienna on April 17, 1945 by L. Kunschak, H. Pernter, L. Weinberger, L. Figl, J. Raab and F. Hurdes. In 1945 the Austrian People's Party dissociated itself from its predecessor, the Christian Social Party, with a clear declaration of faith in parliamentary democracy and the Austrian nation, but preserved continuity with respect to its leading personalities (party officials) and social structure (farmers, industrialists, civil servants and salaried employees as the main voters) as well as its ideological proximity to the Catholic church, which was, however, loosened in the course of time. Until the end of the 1960s the OeVP was successful in presenting itself as a middle-class omnibus party, which united various professional and trade groups and ideological tendencies (conservatism, liberalism, catholic social teachings).

From November 1945 until March 1970 the OeVP controlled Austrian politics as the stronger government party of the grand coalition (1947-1966), supplying the federal chancellor and the most important ministers, and later as the first one-party government (1966-1970). The electoral defeat in 1970 initiated a 17-year-long opposition era (1970-1986), which ended with the formation of the second grand coalition with the SPOe ( Sozialdemokratische Partei Oesterreichs) in 1987, this time, however, with the OeVP being the weaker coalition partner. In the elections to the Nationalrat in 1986 the OeVP lost some of their voters and the heavy losses in 1990 and 1994 reduced the OeVP to a medium-sized party, but it recovered some votes in 1995.

At the 1999 general elections the OeVP managed to retain its seats but received fewer votes and was thus third behind the SPOe and the FPOe ( Freiheitliche Partei Oesterreichs). The OeVP nevertheless formed a coalition with the FPOe in 2000 and for the first time in 30 years the Federal Chancellor (W. Schuessel) was drawn from the ranks of the OeVP.

The strength of the OeVP lies on the provincial level: Since 1945 the OeVP has continuously provided the provincial governors in 6 federal provinces (Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tirol, Vorarlberg), between 1945-1964 in Burgenland, in Carinthia 1991-1999. Since 1987, when the OeVP returned to the coalition government at the federal level, its position has also been weakened in the elections of provincial diets. On the municipal level it is still the dominant force in small rural communities.

The first policy statement ("15 Guiding Principles", 1945) was followed by the "Salzburg Programme" in 1972, which was replaced by the New Policy Statement in 1995; in 1985 the "Manifesto for the Future" and further campaign and election programmes were drawn up. The spectrum of ideologies and opinions expressed therein is particularly broad and heterogeneous, and on economic, ecological or social and cultural questions views can often only be harmonised on a short-term basis.

Structure and Organisation: The OeVP is structured according to territories and functions. The territorial organisation follows the levels of federal government, provinces, political districts, in some areas the judicial districts and municipalities; functionally, the party is made up of a number of "Buende" (federations). The 3 traditional and most influential Buende are the Bauernbund (Austrian Farmers´ Federation) (OeBB), the Wirtschaftsbund (Austrian Economic Federation) (OeWB) and the Arbeiter- und Angestelltenbund (Austrian Association of Wage Earners and Salaried Employees) (OeAAB). The other three component parts of the OeVP are the Oesterreichische Frauenbewegung (Austrian Women´s Movement - OeFB), the Junge OeVP (Young People´s Party - JVP) and the Oesterreichische Seniorenbund (Austrian Senior Citizens Association - OeSB), which were raised from the status of special organisations and specific administrative associations to formally equal sub-organisations in the 1970s. Important associated organisations include the Akademikerbund (Association of University Graduates), the Oesterreichische Cartellverband and numerous Catholic groups with ideological or personal connections to the Party. The OeVP has the tightest network of local organisations of all Austrian parties and is represented in almost every region of Austria. The OeVP is based on indirect membership, i.e. membership is acquired mainly through membership of one of its sub-organisations and usually not through direct entry into the OeVP. In 1999 the party had a total membership of approx. 600,000. The OeWB, OeBB and OeAAB are independent associations and are almost completely autonomous due to their secure financial position. They collect membership fees through their provincial organisations and share them with the provincial and federal party organisations.

Numerous attempts have been made to reorganise the relationship between the central party and its member organisations in order to redress the financial imbalance between the central party and the member organisations and on the other hand to generally lessen the latter´s influence, as they sometimes represent controversial ideas and hence prevent the central party from pursuing consistent policies based on consensus and projecting an image of unity. The introduction and further development of public party financing, reforms and the transformation of the political system (central role of the Chancellor in the democratic process and emphasis on media appeal) strengthen the central office against the federations.

Following is a chronological list of federal party chairmen of the OeVP: L. Kunschak (1945), L. Figl (1945-1952), J. Raab (1952-1960), A. Gorbach (1960-1963), J. Klaus (1963-1970), H. Withalm (1970/71), K. Schleinzer (1971-1975), J. Taus (1975-1979), A. Mock (1979-89), J. Riegler (1989-1991), E. Busek (1991-1995) and W. Schuessel (since 1995).


L. Reichhold, Geschichte der OeVP, 1975; W. C. Mueller, Die Oesterreichische Volkspartei, in: Handbuch des politischen Systems Oe., 1991; R. Kriechbaumer and F. Schausberger (eds.), Volkspartei - Anspruch und Realitaet, 1995.