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Austria

Yearbook 2013

Austria. Former Minister of the Interior and European Parliamentarian Ernst Strasser was sentenced in January to four years in prison for bribery. Strasser, who was a member of the Conservative People's Party (OVP), was convicted of offering lobbying services in the European Parliament for compensation.

2013 Austria

The first nationwide referendum in Austria was held in January. The Social Democrats, the largest of the ruling parties, advocated the dismantling of the general military duty, but close to 60% of voters voted to retain it.

According to Countryaah, Gerald Klug became the new Minister of Defense in March, when Norbert Darabos resigned to lead the Social Democratic SP's election campaign ahead of the September parliamentary elections.

When regional elections were held in Carinthia in March, the SP again became the largest party, following a dramatic fall for the right-wing populists who have ruled since 2009. The Federation for the Future of Austria (BZ) then received 45% of the votes while the Krnten Freedom Party (FPK), which since replaced BZ, now received only 17%. Internal fragmentation and corruption scandals contributed to the case. Carinthia was the home ground for Jrg Haider, the forefront of Austrian right-wing extremism. He passed away in 2008.

At an EU summit in May, Austria basically agreed to ease its banking secrecy, after a decade of pressure and negotiations with the EU. The EU demanded the exchange of information on account holders from other countries in order to prevent tax evasion.

In the parliamentary elections in September, both government parties lost SP and VP votes. SP received support of just under 27% and VP of 24%. The result was the worst since World War II for both parties, which often ruled together in a so-called large coalition. Together, they received 99 of 183 seats in the National Council and thus retained their own majority.

Several smaller parties moved forward instead. The xenophobic Freedom Party (FP), the party Haider first founded, was supported by every fifth voter and increased from 34 to 40 seats. At the same time, BZ ended up under the four per cent block and became without a mandate. The Green Party also grew and two newly formed parties took place in Parliament: the EU-skeptical Team Stronach and the liberal New Austria.

After the election, VP's leader, Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, opened up to form a marked right-wing government with FP and Team Stronach. But President Heinz Fischer commissioned Chancellor and Social Democrat Werner Faymann to re-form government.

Spindelegger now became finance minister and only 27-year-old Sebastian Kurz took over the post of foreign minister.

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