Austrian People’s Party

   Österreichische Volkspartei
   (ÖVP)
   Tainted, indeed sometimes stained by associations with Austro-Fascism, and with authoritarian leanings generally, Austrian conservatives decided after World War II to establish a party to replace the Christian Social Party of the interwar years. Though many still held fast to the strong Catholic convictions of the interwar organization, they realized that much of their position had lost its popular appeal. Nor were their connections with authoritarianism kindly received in international circles.
   Their new movement, the Austrian People’s Party, brought forth in 1945, tried to identify itself with both modern democratic currents and still acceptable elements of its past. Pledging its support for parliamentary democracy, an independent Austria, and a social market economy, the ÖVP made the integration of all sectors of Austrian society its overarching mission. While it generally built its programs around a Roman Catholic understanding of man and society, it moved away from any pronounced commitment to a single confession or religious institution. Priests were actually forbidden to run for office. The party stated these views with special force in its Salzburg Program of 30 November 1972. Perhaps its most traditional feature was its quasi-corporate call for peasants, businesspeople, civil servants, and salaried employees to be represented in organized groups rather than individually. The Women’s movement, the Austrian Youth Organization, and the Senior Citizens’ Union enjoy some representation in party deliberations as well. The party also strove to act as an ideological umbrella organization for all bourgeois positions: conservative, liberal, and social Catholic. From November 1947 until March 1970, the ÖVP dominated the Grand Coalition with the Socialist Party of Austria (SPÖ) that governed Austria. Members of the ÖVP served as federal chancellors from 1947 to 1966 and held the majority of the significant ministries. Indeed, from 1966 to 1970, the party dispensed with a coalition altogether. Leading party functionaries such as Julius Raab, Leopold Figl, and Alphons Gorbach played major roles in the reconstruction of Austria internally and the eventual lifting of the Allied occupation in 1955. From 1970 on, however, the electoral fortunes of the ÖVP have dimmed. It was not until 1987 that it reentered a coalition government with the SPÖs and then as a very weak member. Throughout the 1990s, its appeal continued to wane, until scandal in the SPÖ, a general popular acceptance of neoliberal economics, and wariness of foreign immigration increased the ÖVP’s appeal. In 2000, led by Wolfgang Schüssel, the ÖVP entered into a widely deplored coalition with the Freedom Party of Austria to govern the country until 2006. Though at first predicted to perform more strongly in the national elections of 2008, it fell behind the SPÖ in the popular vote once again.
   See also Political Parties.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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