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Could Austria see earlier-than-expected parliamentary elections this year?

Amanda Previdelli
Amanda Previdelli - [email protected]
Could Austria see earlier-than-expected parliamentary elections this year?
A woman enters a polling station during snap elections in Austria, on September 29, 2019. Austria held snap elections after a corruption scandal caused the dramatic collapse of the previous right-wing coalition government. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Austria's nationwide parliamentary elections - and the naming of a new chancellor - usually take place in Autumn, but rumours have been circulating that they might happen much earlier in 2024.


Austria is set for a "super election year", as political analysts have called it.

The highlight is the National Council elections, when a new Parliament and Chancellor will be chosen, but the European Parliament elections are also scheduled for 2024, as well as several municipal and state votes.

Traditionally, elections to the National Council, the Lower Chamber of Austria's Parliament, occur every five years at some point in the autumn months. And the new government and parliament take seats the following year, in January. 

READ ALSO: Austria's 'super-election year': What will be decided and when?

However, there have been ongoing rumours that an earlier day could be set. 

When would an 'early election' take place?

Rumours are that the elections could be combined with the EU voting scheduled for June. In response to an inquiry by the Austrian Press Association, the Ministry of the Interior stated that it was "legally possible" to do that.

The Ministry said:  "Should Parliament make such a decision, the Ministry of the Interior will implement it together with the electoral authorities concerned".

Some political commentators claim that having a "super election Sunday" with both EU and Austrian votes would be "cheaper and more efficient". They also point out that a shorter campaign period could benefit the incumbents, particularly as the last few months of government tend to be "the most inefficient".

For the junior coalition partner, the Greens, merging both elections could mean that the centre-left vice-chancellor Werner Kogler could get a boost from campaigning with EU candidate Lena Schilling, the young climate activist running for the bloc's parliament. Conversely, her lack of experience could be a gap that Kogler can cover. 

READ ALSO: How do Austrians elect their chancellor?

Some people also believe that early elections could be helpful to halt the growth of the far-right FPÖ party in Austria. Some members of the opposition party SPÖ have also come forward, stating that "the earlier the election, the better for the Austrians".


Who's against it?

While some believe rushing the vote could contain the FPÖ's growth, more optimistic parties argue that it would give other political players less time to counter the far-right. With Germany-inspired protests scheduled against the far-right, Austria may have some momentum to hold and perhaps even decrease voting preference for the FPÖ.

Additionally, as political scandals get unravelled, notably an FPÖ financial corruption scandal in Styria, it could mean fewer votes for the party. Of course, as inquiry commissions on alleged corruption within the centre-right and incumbent ÖVP party continue, the same could happen with Chancellor Karl Nehammer's party.

READ ALSO: What changes about life in Austria in 2024?

Other political experts have also been against it. "I can probably think of 20 good reasons against merging the two elections", Robert Stein, former head of the Elections Department at the Ministry of the Interior, told Kurier in mid-January.


He highlighted technical difficulties as two utterly different voting lists, ballot envelopes that are clearly different and boxes that should never be mixed up or combined are needed. For him, the "human factor" - human mistakes - makes such a voting process not worth it. "The risks of mistakes happening would be extremely high", he said.

For him, the argument that two votes on one day would be faster does not stand. "The different electoral registers and ballot papers complicate the process considerably, leading to longer waiting times at polling stations.

Additionally, EU citizens are allowed to vote for the European Parliament, bringing thousands of voters to the polling stations that would otherwise not have been there in an autumn election exclusively for Austrian citizens to choose a National Council.


Who decides if the election is brought forward?

In the Austrian political landscape, the ultimate authority regarding ending a legislative period is the parliament. The process involves a majority agreement among Members of Parliament (MPs) to pass a resolution for a new election. While, in theory, the votes of the governing parties are adequate for such a resolution, in practice, consensus with some or all opposition parties is often sought.

READ ALSO: Can the Austrian president refuse to appoint a far-right chancellor?

Formally, an alternative route exists, allowing the Federal President to dissolve the National Council at the federal government's recommendation. However, such an event has never occurred in Austrian political history.



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