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Austrian People's Party
The Austrian People's Party or Österreichische Volkspartei is an Austrian political party. It is roughly comparable to the German Christian Democratic Union in terms of both platform and voter demographics. The People's Party has been founded immediately following the reestablishment of the Federal Republic of Austria in 1945 and has been a major player in Austrian politics ever since.
With regard to social policy, the Austrian People's Party is a classical conservative movement, running on a platform of respect for tradition and stability of social order. In particular, it is expressly not interested in strengthening Austria's incomplete separation of church and state and appears to be somewhat skeptical of affirmative action, gay rights, and other forms of real or perceived Social engineering. For most of its existence, the People's Party has explicitly defined itself as Catholic and anti-socialist; the ideal of subsidiarity as defined by the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno is generally considered one of the historical cornerstones of its agenda.
With regard to economic policy, the People's Party advocates what is probably best described as new liberalism, endorsing the reduction of Austria's relatively large public sector, welfare reform, and general deregulation. With regard to foreign affairs, it strongly supports European integration. Over the last two decades, the People's party has also adopted a more pronouncedly environmentalist stance than is typical for conservative movements.
The People's Party's position within the traditional political spectrum is hard to mark down. On the one hand, its views on economic policy are slightly right-of-center if seen in the context of Europe's political landscape, and its views on social policy are right-of-center in the context of the political landscape of almost any Western democracy. On the other hand, its views on economic policy are still arguably closer to those of classical social democracy than to those of classical laissez-faire capitalism, and it advocates decidedly more economic interventionism than most ostensibly left-wing parties in Europe. Party leaders and intellectuals have been known to approvingly comment on select aspects of economic philosophies like those of Margaret Thatcher or Friedrich Hayek, but the party's rank and file mostly do not follow suit. While the party is seen as more or less rightist by many Austrians and other Europeans, it would appear centrist or possibly even leftist to most American observers.
The Austrian People's Party is popular mainly among white collar employees, large and small business owners, and farmers. In particular, it is backed by a majority of Austria's civil servants, a remarkably large and influential group due to the size and scope of Austria's government bureaucracy. Austria's blue collar workers, by comparison, tend to endorse the Social Democratic Party and the Freedom Party. All in all, People's Party supporters are comparatively educated and affluent. As its supporters like to point out, the People's Party enjoys growing popularity with younger voters according to a number of recent public opinion polls.
The Austrian People's Party is the successor of the Christian Social Party, a staunchly conservative movement founded in 1893 by Karl Lueger, mayor of Vienna and highly controversial right-wing populist. In its present form, the People's Party was established immediately after the restoration of Austria's independence in 1945; it has been represented in both the Federal Assembly ever since. In terms of Federal Assembly seats, the People's Party has consistently been the strongest or second-strongest party; as such, it has lead or at least been a partner in most Austria's federal cabinets. The People's Party has also been consistently controlling the state governments of the rural and strongly Catholic states of Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, and Vorarlberg. It is less popular in the city state of Vienna and in the rural but less strongly Catholic states of Burgenland and Carinthia. Only in 2004, it lost its plurality in the State of Salzburg for the first time. All things considered, the People's Party would have been near-incontestably dominating Austrian politics had it not been not for the comparatively populous and solidly social democratic metropolis of Vienna.
After the Austrian legislative election, 1999, the People's Party formed in 2000 a coalition government with the right-wing populist Jörg Haider's Austrian Freedom Party. This caused widespread outrage in Europe, and fourteen members of the European Union imposed informal diplomatic sanctions against Austria's federal administration. A few months later, these sanctions were dropped as a result of a fact-finding mission by three former European prime ministers, the so-called "three wise men". In November 2002, general elections resulted in a landslide victory (42.27% of the vote) for the People's Party under the leadership of Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel. Haider's Freedom Party, which in 1999 was slightly stronger than Schüssel's party, was reduced to 10.16% of the vote.
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