Federal President, Head of State of the Republic of Austria, highest organ of the executive along with the Federal Chancellor, the Vice Chancellor and the Federal Ministers. The office of the Federal President was set up by the Federal Constitution of October 1, 1920. According to the constitutional amendment of 1929, the Federal President is elected by direct vote of the people and thus constitutes a political counterbalance to the parliament (first election of a federal president in 1951).
Every person who is entitled to take part in legislative elections and who is over the age of 35 before January 1 of the election year is eligible to run for office. Members of ruling or formerly ruling families (especially the Habsburgs) are not eligible. The candidate who obtains more than half of the valid votes cast is elected. If no candidate receives more than half of the votes at the first ballot, a second ballot between the two candidates with the most votes has to take place. The federal president is sworn in by the Bundesversammlung. The federal president enjoys extensive Immunity from prosecution. During his/her tenure of office s/he must not practise any other profession nor belong to a general representative body. The Federal President is elected for a six-year term. S/he may be re-elected for a second six-year term. Premature removal is only possible by a Volksabstimmung (plebiscite), a decision of the Constitutional Court or a criminal conviction (which presupposes the withdrawal of the President's immunity). If the president is prevented from fulfilling his/her duties (for 20 days at most), the Federal Chancellor assumes the functions of the federal president; if the federal president is prevented from holding office for a longer period, his/her functions are assumed by the 3 presidents of the Nationalrat. If s/he is permanently incapacitated, a new election has to be called immediately and the 3 presidents of the Nationalrat exercise the functions of the Federal President until the newly elected president is sworn in.
The duties of the Federal President are laid down in the articles 60-68 of the Federal Constitution. Most acts of the Federal President ("resolutions") require a proposal by the Federal Government or by a federal minister and the counter-signature of the federal chancellor or a federal minister. When the federal president appoints the federal chancellor, s/he is not subject to any legal obligations but usually charges the chairman of the majority party with the formation of a government.
The President's most important competencies are the following: s/he appoints and dismisses the Federal Chancellor, the Federal Ministers and the Staatssekretaere; s/he swears in the Landeshauptmaenner; authenticates federal laws duly established and enacted; convenes and dissolves parliament; dissolves the Landtage; is commander-in-chief of the armed forces; represents the Republic; concludes state treaties for the federal and provincial governments; receives and acknowledges foreign diplomatic representatives; appoints federal civil servants and members of the constitutional and administrative courts; creates and awards titles; quashes criminal proceedings and grants pardons; declares the legitimacy of illegitimate children. Under certain conditions the federal president is entitled to enact emergency decrees.
Literature#M. Welan, Der Bundespraesident, 1992.