Chancellor of Austria

The Chancellor of Austria (German: Bundeskanzler der Republik Österreich, lit. 'Federal Chancellor of the Republic of Austria') is the head of government of the Austrian Republic. The chancellor chairs and leads the government, which is composed of him, the vice-chancellor and the ministers. Together with the president, who is head of state, the government forms the country's executive leadership.

Austria is a parliamentary republic, the system of government in which real power is vested in the head of government. However, in Austria most executive actions of great extent can only be exercised by the president, upon advice or with the countersignature of the chancellor. Therefore the chancellor often requires the president's assent to implement greater decisions. Furthermore neither the ministers nor the vice-chancellor report to the chancellor.

In legislature, the chancellor's power depends on the size of his affiliated parliamentary group. In case of a coalition government, the chancellor commonly is the leader of the party most represented in the National Council, with the leader of the party able to grant a majority, usually serving as the vice-chancellor.

The first Austrian sovereign head of government was the State Chancellor of the Austrian Empire, a position only held by Klemens von Metternich. The office was later renamed to Minister-President of the Austrian Empire and remained from there on until the dissolution of Austria-Hungary. The first head of government after the monarchy was the State Chancellor of German-Austria, an office again only held by one person; Karl Renner. After allied powers declined a union between Austria and Germany, the office was renamed to just State Chancellor of Austria and later changed to Federal Chancellor, which remained the position's final form until present day.

The official residence and executive office of the chancellor is the chancellery, which is located at the Ballhausplatz in the center of Vienna. Both, the chancellor as well as the government are appointed by the president and can be dismissed by the president.

The current officeholder is Sebastian Kurz, who was sworn in on 18 December 2017 by President Alexander Van der Bellen.[2]

Chancellor of Austria
Bundeskanzler der Republik Österreich
Coat of arms of Austria
Flag of Austria (state)
Sebastian Kurz (2018-02-28) (cropped)
Sebastian Kurz

since 18 December 2017
Executive branch in Austrian Politics
Chancellery of Austria
StyleMr. Chancellor
His Excellency
StatusHead of Government
Member ofCabinet
European Council
National Security Council
SeatBallhausplatz, Innere Stadt, Vienna
NominatorPolitical parties
AppointerPresident of Austria
Term lengthNo fixed term (usually five years)
Constituting instrumentConstitution of Austria
PrecursorMinister-President of the Austrian Empire
  • Date created:
    1 October 1920
  • Date effective:
    10 November 1920
First holderKarl Renner
DeputyVice-Chancellor of Austria
Salary306,446 annually[1]


The use of the term Chancellor (Kanzler, derived from Latin: cancellarius) as head of the chancery writing office can be traced back as far as the ninth century, when under King Louis the German the office of the Archchancellor (Erzkanzler), later Imperial Chancellor (Reichserzkanzler), was created as a high office on the service of the Holy Roman Emperor.[3] The task was usually fulfilled by the Prince-Archbishops of Mainz as Archchancellors of the German lands.

In the course of the Imperial reform, the Habsburg Emperor Maximilian I in 1498 attempted to counter the spiritual power of the Reichserzkanzler with a more secular position of an Imperial Court Chancellor (Hofkanzler), but the two became merged. These were also the times when attempts were made to balance Imperial absolutism by the creation of Imperial Governments (Reichsregiment), ultimately a failure.

Habsburg Monarchy

Nevertheless, when Maximilian's grandson Ferdinand I succeeded him as Archduke of Austria in 1521, his elder brother Emperor Charles V (1519–1556) appointed Mercurino Gattinara as "Grand Chancellor of all the realms and kingdoms of the king" (Großkanzler aller Länder und Königreiche). The separate position of an Austrian Court Chancellor appeared as a Österreichische Hofkanzlei around 1526, when the Habsburg Monarchy arose with the Bohemian and Hungarian inheritance; it was however once again merged with the equivalent Reichshofkanzlei office of the Holy Roman Empire in 1559.

Upon the 1620 Battle of White Mountain and the suppression of the Bohemian revolt, Emperor Ferdinand II had separate Court Chancelleries established in order to strengthen the unity of the Habsburg hereditary lands. Beside a Bohemian and Hungarian chancellery, he created the office of an Austrian chancellor in Vienna, responsible for the Archduchy of Austria proper (i.e. Upper and Lower Austria) with the Inner Austrian territories and Tyrol. Under Emperor Leopold I (1658–1705) the term again became Hofkanzler with Johann Paul Freiherr von Hocher (1667–1683), and Theodor von Strattman (1683–1693).[4]

Wien - Bundeskanzleramt1
Federal Chancellery on Ballhausplatz, former Geheime Hofkanzlei

The eighteenth century was dominated by Prince Wenzel Anton of Kaunitz-Rietberg (1753–1792), who was Chancellor to four Habsburg emperors from Maria Theresa to Francis II, with the titles of both Hofkanzler and Staatskanzler. He was succeeded by Johann Philipp von Cobenzl (1792–1793), who was dismissed by Emperor Francis II over the Partition of Poland and was succeeded by Johann Amadeus Francis de Paula (Baron Thugot) (1793–1800). Thugot's chancellorship did not survive the Austrian defeats by the French at the battles of Marengo and Hohenlinden in 1800 and he was replaced by Johan Ludwig Joseph Cobenzl (1800–1805), his predecessor's cousin, but who in turn was dismissed following the Austrian defeat at Austerlitz in 1805.

Austrian Empire

With the consequent dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and founding of the Austrian Empire, Francis II abdicated the former Imperial Throne, but remained Emperor Francis I of Austria in 1806. He had replaced Cobenzl with Johan Philip Charles Stadion (1805–1809) the previous year, but his career was in turn cut short in 1809 following yet another Austrian defeat by Napoleon at the Battle of Wagram and subsequent humiliation at the Treaty of Schönbrunn. Prince Klemens von Metternich was appointed by Francis I to the positions of Hofkanzler and Staatskanzler (1821–1848). However, there is some opinion that the Chancellor title was not used between Prince Kaunitz-Rietberg's resignation in 1792 and 1821.[5] As the Metternich system had become a synonym for his reactionary politics, the title of a State Chancellor was abolished upon the 1848 revolutions. The position became that of a Minister-President of Austria, equivalent to Prime Minister, with the exception of Count Friedrich Ferdinand von Beust (1867–1871)[4][6] the title only re-emerging at the birth of German Austria after World War I in 1918, when Karl Renner was appointed Staatskanzler. With the enactment of the Constitution of Austria on 10 November 1920, the actual term Bundeskanzler was implemented as head of the executive branch of the First Austrian Republic.


The Chancellor is appointed and sworn in by the President.[7] In theory, the President can appoint anyone eligible to be elected to the National Council, essentially meaning any Austrian national over the age of 18.[8] In practice, a Chancellor is unable to govern unless he or she commands the confidence of the National Council. For this reason, the Chancellor usually is the leader of the largest party in the National Council, or the senior partner in a coalition government. A notable exception to this occurred after the 1999 election. The Freedom Party won the most seats and went into coalition with the People's Party. While this would have normally made Freedom Party leader Jorg Haider Chancellor, he was deemed too controversial to be a member of the Cabinet, let alone Chancellor. He thus stepped aside in favour of People's Party leader Wolfgang Schüssel.

The Chancellor has no term limits. As a matter of constitutional convention, the Chancellor usually offers his or her resignation to the President upon dissolution of the National Council. The President usually declines and directs the Chancellor and his or her cabinet to operate as a caretaker government until a new National Council is in session and a new majority leader has emerged. In fact, the constitution expressly encourages the President to use a Chancellor as his or her own interim successor.[9]

A Chancellor is typically appointed or dismissed together with his or her ministers, which means the whole government. Technically, the President can only appoint ministers on advice of the Chancellor, so the Chancellor is appointed first. Having been sworn in, the Chancellor presents the President with his or her list of ministers; they will usually have been installed just minutes later. Neither Chancellors nor ministers need to be confirmed by either house of parliament; the appointees are fully capable of discharging the functions of their respective offices immediately after having been sworn in.[10]

The National Council can force the President to dismiss a Chancellor or a minister through a vote of no confidence. The President is constitutionally required to dismiss a cabinet member the National Council declares it wants gone.[11] Opposition parties will sometimes table votes of no confidence against ministers, and occasionally whole cabinets, in order to demonstrate criticism; these votes are not expected to pass and never do.

Role and powers

Ministers Council room in the Federal Chancellery.

The Chancellor chairs the meetings of the cabinet. The constitution does not vest the Chancellor with the authority to issue directions to ministers; it characterizes his or her role in the cabinet as that of a primus inter pares.[12] The power of the office to set policy derives partly from its inherent prestige, partly from the fact that the President is required to dismiss ministers the Chancellor requests removed,[10] and partly from the Chancellor's position of leadership in the party or coalition controlling the National Council.

Most articles of the constitution that mention the office of Chancellor are tasking the incumbent with notarizing decisions by the President or by various constitutional bodies, with ensuring that these decisions are duly announced to the general public, or with acting as an intermediary between various branches of government. In particular, the Chancellor

  • submits bills passed by the National Council to the President for certification,
  • countersigns certifications of bills made by the President,[13]
  • announces the bills that have thus become laws,
  • announces treaties the Republic of Austria is party to upon ratification,[14]
  • announces Constitutional Court decision overturning laws or executive orders,[15]
  • announces the results of Presidential elections,[16]
  • announces changes to the Rules of Procedure adopted by the Federal Council,[17]
  • countersigns decisions reached by the Federal Assembly,[18]
  • announces declarations of war,[18] and
  • notifies provincial governments of bills passed by the National Council that require their assent to become law.[19]

The Chancellor also convenes the Federal Assembly if the National Council moves to have the President removed from office,[16] or if the National Council moves to lift the immunity of the President from criminal prosecution.[20] In the former case, the Federal Assembly votes on whether to allow a referendum on the matter. In the latter case, the assent of the Federal Assembly is required for the President's immunity to be rescinded.

Finally, the Chancellor becomes Acting President if the President is incapacitated. However, if the President remains incapacitated after twenty days, the role of Acting President is passed to the three Presidents of the National Council.[21]

List of chancellors

Karl Renner 1905
Karl Renner, first Austrian Chancellor 1918–1920

Living former Chancellors

There are six living former Austrian Chancellors:

2017 Franz Vranitzky (32491463186)
Franz Vranitzky
October 4, 1937 (age 81)
Viktor Klima (cropped 1)
Viktor Klima
June 4, 1947 (age 71)
Wolfgang Schüssel (10929632805)
Wolfgang Schüssel
June 7, 1945 (age 73)
2015 Alfred Gusenbauer (16774804032)
Alfred Gusenbauer
February 8, 1960 (age 59)
2015-12 Werner Faymann SPD Bundesparteitag by Olaf Kosinsky-26 (cropped)
Werner Faymann
May 4, 1960 (age 58)
Frauen-Fußballnationalmannschaft Österreich EM 2017 Empfang Bundespräsident 15 Christian Kern
Christian Kern
January 4, 1966 (age 53)

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^
  2. ^ Politico (17 December 2017). "Sebastian Kurz gets approval for coalition with Austrian far right".
  3. ^ "Interdisziplinärer Arbeitskreis Kurmainz und der Erzkanzler des Reiches: Reichserzkanzler".
  4. ^ a b Cambridge Modern History vol xiii 1911. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  5. ^ Kaisergruft: Metternich Archived 15 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Austria Forum Web Books Viewer".
  7. ^ Bundes-Verfassungsgesetz article 70
  8. ^ B-VG art. 26
  9. ^ B-VG art. 71
  10. ^ a b B-VG art. 70
  11. ^ B-VG art. 74
  12. ^ B-VG art. 69
  13. ^ B-VG art. 47
  14. ^ B-VG art. 49
  15. ^ B-VG art. 140
  16. ^ a b B-VG art. 60
  17. ^ B-VG art. 37
  18. ^ a b B-VG art. 40
  19. ^ B-VG art. 42a
  20. ^ B-VG art. 63
  21. ^ B-VG art. 64

External links

Alfred Gusenbauer

Alfred Gusenbauer (born 8 February 1960) is an Austrian politician who until 2008 spent his entire professional life as an employee of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) or as a parliamentary representative. He headed the SPÖ from 2000 to 2008, and served as Chancellor of Austria from January 2007 to December 2008. Since then he has pursued a career as a consultant and lecturer, and as a member of supervisory boards of Austrian companies.

Carl Vaugoin

Carl Vaugoin (8 July 1873, Vienna – 10 June 1949, Krems/Donau) was an Austrian official and politician of the Christian Social Party. He served as Defense Minister in 15 Austrian cabinets from 1921 to 1933, from 1929 to 1930 also as Vice Chancellor of Austria, and as Chancellor of Austria for about two months in 1930.

Christian Kern

Christian Kern (Austrian German pronunciation: [ˈkrɪstja:n ˈkɛrn]; born 4 January 1966) was Chancellor of Austria from 17 May 2016 to 18 December 2017 and chairman of the Social Democratic Party from 25 June 2016 to 25 September 2018.

A business journalist by profession, the member of Austria's Social Democratic Party served as spokesman of the SPÖ's parliamentary group leader in the mid-1990s, before he became a senior manager in Austria's leading electricity company Verbund AG. In 2010, Kern was appointed CEO of the state-owned Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB), chairing the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) from 2014 onwards. Following the resignation of Werner Faymann amidst the presidential election, the governing Social Democrats nominated Kern for the office of Chancellor.

Kern was sworn in as Chancellor of Austria on 17 May 2016, vowing to continue the "Grand coalition" with the People's Party (ÖVP), but promising a "New Deal" that would bring about more jobs by cutting red tape while ensuring ordinary workers receive a share of economic prosperity. Kern criticized the Austrian political elite as being power-obsessed and devoid of a meaningful political agenda about the country's future.

Erhard Busek

Erhard Busek (born 25 March 1941) is an Austrian politician from the Christian-conservative People's Party (ÖVP). Throughout his political career, he was widely regarded as one of the leaders of the party's liberal wing. He is coordinator of the South-Eastern Cooperative Initiative (SECI) and chairman of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe.

Busek was chief of the party and Vice-Chancellor of Austria in the coalition of the Social Democratic Party of Austria with the People's Party between 1991–1995 and was an important reformer of the Austrian universities. From January 2002 until June 2008 Busek served as Special Co-ordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, the final person to hold the position.

Franz Vranitzky

Franz Vranitzky (born 4 October 1937) is an Austrian politician. A member of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ), he was Chancellor of Austria from 1986 to 1997.

Fred Sinowatz

Alfred "Fred" Sinowatz (5 February 1929 – 11 August 2008) was an Austrian politician of the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), who served as Chancellor of Austria from 1983 to 1986. Prior to becoming Chancellor, he had served as Minister of Education from 1971 to 1983 and Vice-Chancellor from 1981 to 1983.

After a three-years term in office, Sinowatz resigned as Chancellor after Kurt Waldheim's victory in the 1986 presidential election.

Heinz-Christian Strache

Heinz-Christian Strache (born 12 June 1969) is an Austrian politician serving as the Vice-Chancellor of Austria since 2017. He also has been Minister for the Civil Service and Sport since January 2018 and Chairman of the Freedom Party (FPÖ) since April 2005. He previously served as a member of the National Council from October 2006 until December 2017 and as a member of the Gemeinderat and Landtag of Vienna (2001–2006).

Josef Klaus

Josef Klaus (15 August 1910 – 26 July 2001) was an Austrian politician of the conservative People's Party (ÖVP). He served as State Governor (Landeshauptmann) of Salzburg from 1949 to 1961, as Minister of Finance from 1961 to 1963 and as Chancellor of Austria from 1964 to 1970.

Karl Buresch

Karl Buresch (12 October 1878 – 16 September 1936) was a lawyer, Christian-Social politician and Chancellor of Austria during the First Republic.

Kurz government

The Kurz government (German: Bundesregierung Kurz) is the current government of Austria, it took office on 18 December 2017. It succeeded the Kern government, following the 2017 election. Sebastian Kurz, leader of the centre-right ÖVP, reached an agreement on a coalition with the right-wing FPÖ, making him chancellor of Austria. The cabinet was appointed by President Alexander Van der Bellen.

List of Ministers-President of Austria

The Minister-President of Austria was the head of government of the Austrian Empire from 1848, when the office was created in the course of the March Revolution. Previously, executive power rested with an Austrian State Council, headed by the Emperor himself, from 1821 under the chairmanship of State Chancellor Prince Klemens von Metternich. The offices of Minister-President was not refilled from 1852, when Emperor Franz Joseph resumed control of the government affairs, and was replaced by a coordinating Chairman of the Austrian Minister's Conference.

According to the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, executive powers were divided between the Emperor and King, the Minister of the Imperial and Royal House and of Foreign Affairs as chairman of the k. u. k. Ministers' Council for Common Affairs, and the Ministers-President of the Cisleithanian (Austrian) and Hungarian halves of the Empire. After the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in November 1918, the head of government in the Austrian Republic since 1920 has been the Federal Chancellor.

Michael Mayr

Michael Mayr (10 April 1864 – 21 May 1922) was an Austrian politician, who served as Chancellor of Austria in the First Austrian Republic from July 1920 to June 1921. He was a member of the Christian Social Party, and by profession a historian.

Otto Ender

Otto Ender (24 December 1875 – 25 June 1960) was an Austrian political figure. He served as the chancellor of Austria between 1930 and 1931.

Reinhold Mitterlehner

Reinhold Mitterlehner (born 10 December 1955) is an Austrian politician who has served in the cabinet of Austria as Federal Minister of Economy from 2008 to date. In September 2014 he also became Vice Chancellor of Austria and Chairman of the Austrian People's Party. On 9 May 2016 he briefly assumed powers and duties as Acting Chancellor of Austria while his coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party, underwent a change in leadership. After a series of quarrels within the grand coalition as well as his own party, Mitterlehner announced his resignation on 10 May 2017, which became effective on 17 May 2017.

Rudolf Ramek

Rudolf Ramek (12 April 1881 – 24 July 1941 ) was an Austrian Christian Social politician, who served as Chancellor of Austria from 1924 to 1926.

Vice-Chancellor of Austria

The Vice-Chancellor of Austria (German: Vizekanzler) is a member of the Federal Government and the deputy of the Chancellor.

The current Vice Chancellor of Austria is Heinz-Christian Strache, in office since 2017.

Viktor Klima

Viktor Klima (born 4 June 1947) is an Austrian Social Democrat politician and businessman. He was chancellor of Austria from 1997 to 2000.

Werner Faymann

Werner Faymann (German: [ˈvɛɐ̯nɐ ˈfaɪman]; born 4 May 1960) is a former Austrian politician who was Chancellor of Austria and chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) from 2008 to 2016. On 9 May 2016, Faymann resigned from both positions amid widening criticism within his party.

Wolfgang Schüssel

Wolfgang Schüssel (German pronunciation: [ˈvɔlfɡaŋ ˈʃʏsəl]; born 7 June 1945) is an Austrian People's Party politician. He was Chancellor of Austria for two consecutive terms from February 2000 to January 2007. While being recognised as a rare example of an active reformer in contemporary Austrian politics, his governments were also highly controversial from the beginning, starting with the fact that he formed a coalition government with Jörg Haider's Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) on both occasions. In 2011, he retired from being an active member of parliament due to a multitude of charges of corruption against members of his governments.

Chancellors of Austria
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