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Semi-Presidentialism in Europe$
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Robert Elgie

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198293866

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198293860.001.0001

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(p.22) 2 Austria
Semi-Presidentialism in Europe

Wolfgang C. Müller (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Since the constitutional reform of 1929, Austria comes under the rubric of semi‐presidentialism as defined in this volume: alongside the chancellor (prime minister), who is fully responsible to parliament, there is a directly elected president, who appoints the government and can dismiss it, although in practical terms the president has very little accountability. Nevertheless, Austria is generally considered as a parliamentary system by leading comparativists, and indeed it is parliamentary elections rather than presidential elections that decide the distribution of power. This chapter concentrates on the post‐war period, although the interwar years are also important for understanding the gap between the large constitutional powers and limited role that presidents have actually played. It draws on the literature on the Austrian presidency, original archival work, and interviews with political actors. The different sections of the chapter are: The Historical Legacy of Introducing Semi‐Presidentialism; Constitutional Powers and Their Practical Relevance; The Presidency and Party Politics; and Conclusion.

Keywords:   Austria, chancellor, constitutional powers, distribution of power, history, parliamentary system, Party Politics, president, semi‐presidentialism

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