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Vienna is different: city and federal province in one

Vienna holds a double function within the Austrian constitutional and administrative order: it is a city with its own statute and a federal province.

Federal constitutional system

Austria itself is a federal country. That is to say: the Republic of Austria consists of a federation between the whole country with a typically republican-democratic constitution and altogether nine federal provinces, Vienna among them, which assume a distinctive federalistic position. There is however a fundamental division of power between the responsibilities of the entire state and those of the nine federal provinces. Their individual, mutually independent competencies are precisely delineated in the constitution.

The seperation of powers guarantees that the legislature, the executive and the judiciary can work independently of one another in all departments and at all levels.

Vienna’s Mayor is concurrently Federal Governor

The head of the Vienna City Hall, in his capacity as “Bürgermeister” (mayor), heads the city government, just as in all other Austrian communities and towns, and is, in addition, the uppermost representative of the federal province, that is to say the federal governor.

The mayor heads the municipal administration and is chairman of the municipal authority. Ranging beneath him are the executive city councillors (as heads of the municipal authority’s working groups), the 23 municipal district chairmen and all municipal employees. He represents the City of Vienna abroad.

The provincial governor is chairman of the provincial government and has indirect responsibility for the federal administration. He is elected by the provincial diet and is sworn into office under the federal constitution by the federal president. In particular the federal governor has the following obligations: representing the province, transmitting the legislative decisions of the provincial diet to the federal government. As a member of the provincial government the federal governor is entrusted with the principal administrative duties of the province. In this respect he is responsible to the provincial diet as a representative of the indirect federal administration of the federal government. The provincial governor is represented by a member of the provincial government who has been chosen by the provincial government, the deputy federal provincial governor. In Vienna this post is filled by the two deputy mayors.

Election of the deputy mayors

With respect to the election of the deputy mayors it should be observed that one deputy mayor must belong to the party with the strongest representation in the municipal council. The post of the second deputy mayor goes to the second-strongest party if it has obtained at least ⅓ of the seats in the municipal council (i.e., at least 34 seats).

The parliaments of the City and the Federal Province are identical in composition

At the same time the administration of the Austrian federal capital has a double structure. Vienna disposes not only of a city but also of a federal province parliament. The former is called “Gemeinderat” (municipal council), the former “Landtag” (provincial diet). There is also a dual government - one for the city called the Stadtsenat, and a separate one of them for the federal province of Vienna, the provincial government.

The 100 Vienna deputies also perform a double function, since they have been elected to both the municipal council (Gemeinderat) and to the federal provincial diet (the Landtag). In other words they are both city deputies and federal province deputies at one and the same time.

The capital’s administration, the so-called “Magistrat”, is simultaneously also the office of the federal provincial government.

The city administration – city council – city senate 

The municipal council also elects the municipal directorate, which can also be referred to as the municipal government. It is the preliminary consultative organ for all decisions that may be taken by the municipal council; the municipal directorate is responsible for some special issues within the administration. In cities with their own statute (such as Vienna) the “Stadtsenat" (city senate) is the legislative assembly.

Bürgermeister (mayor)

The mayor is likewise elected by the municipal council. He is responsible to the municipal council for affairs within his own sphere of influence and for tasks with which he has been entrusted, but he is also subject to the appropriate state organs and must accept their authority.

The provincial constitutions envisage the composition of the provincial government to be undertaken in accordance with the relative strengths of the parties represented therein. The consequence is that the government system in the provinces is along proportional representation lines (concentration government system).

Municipal office – city office – city administration

The municipal office is the administrative and executive office of the municipality and undertakes (in compliance with the mayor and the municipal council) the business affairs of the municipality.
In cities the municipal office is known as the city office, in cities with their own statute, such as Vienna, as the “Magistrat” (municipal directorate).

In accordance with the division of responsibility there are at present in Vienna eight  business groups, each of which is headed by an executive city councillor. These business groups comprise altogether 70 municipal directorate departments as well as the following enterprises: Wiener Krankenanstaltverbund (hospital association), Wiener Wohnen (housing), Museen der Stadt Wien (city museums), Wiener Stadtwerke (Vienna utilities) and Wien Holding. The municipal directorate and the Control Office as well as the 19 municipal district offices are not under the supervision of an executive city councillor.

As a city municipality Vienna is also a political district, subdivided into altogether 23 municipal districts. They each have their own district parliaments with certain competencies. They are directed by elected district chairmen.

Vienna City Senate

The head of the city senate – that is the Vienna city government – is the mayor. The city senate is composed of the mayor and the city councillors to be determined according to the proportional representation electoral law. The municipal director attends the sessions and is entitled to file motions. The mayor holds the chair in the city senate and convenes the body.

The motions to be handled by the city senate are generally introduced by the relevant executive city councillors. Municipal council members, municipal district directors and other (competent) persons may be admitted to the city senate sessions (not open to the public).

The Vienna city constitution lays down there should be at least nine city councillors, and 15 city councillors at the most. A special feature of the Vienna city constitution is that not  all members of the city senate, that is to say the city government, need be responsible for a specific sector of public affairs. Alongside executive city councillors there may also be city councillors “without portfolio” who have a seat and a vote in the city senate even though they have no specific duties in the municipal directorate, that is to say they do not head any municipal department.

Election of city senate members

The city councillors are elected by the municipal council in accordance with the proportional representation law. This law signifies that – dependent, of course, on the total number of city senate members – each party has the right to a number of seats in the city senate commensurate with its representation in the municipal council. The procedure for determining the number of city councillors, the election of the city councillors, the deputy mayors and the executive city councillors is described in the following.

Distribution of the city senate seats

The distribution of seats in the city senate proceeds according to the d'Hondt system. This ensures that the parties which have gained seats in the municipal council will also be correspondingly represented in the city senate. In connection with the organisational ruling that the number of members of the city senate should be at least nine and not more than 15, there is then the possibility of forming “single colour” or “coalitionary” city governments.

Tasks of the city senate

The city senate votes on important administrative affairs (personnel matters, city projects etc.) and debates all affairs that the municipal council submits for a decision. In particular the city senate is obliged – in conjunction here with the financial committee – to check and deliberate on the municipality’s draft budget and its accounts. Other important city senate tasks are proposals for election of executive city councillors, the appointment of the municipal director, the exercise of presentation right in various instances, the approval of complaint submissions to the administrative court and the constitutional court, and the decision about competencies for the municipal council committees (inasmuch as there are any differences). Furthermore, the city senate (as well as the mayor himself) enjoys an emergency competency (in accordance with § 98 WStV). This means it/he can overthrow decisions of the municipal council or of a municipal council committee in special cases for reasons of urgency.

City Council elections of 10 October 2010

1,144,510 people were eligible to vote in the elections. 774,079 votes were cast: 745,938 were valid and 19,141 were invalid. Voter turnout was at 67.63 per cent (including the 122,865 postal votes) – an increase of 6.83 per cent compared to the 2005 elections. The voting age in Austria is 16 years.
The Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) received 44.34 per cent of the vote. The Freedom Party (FPÖ) was in clear second place with 25.77 per cent. The People’s Party (ÖVP) dropped to 13.99 per cent, and the Greens received 12.64 per cent. Thus, the SPÖ now has 49 seats on the City Council, the FPÖ has 27, the ÖVP has 13 and the Greens have 11. The FPÖ is the only party to have won seats (+14), while the other parties all lost a significant number of seats (SPÖ: –6; ÖVP: –5; Greens: –3). All other parties failed to reach the number of votes required for representation on the City Council. The current term of office of the City Council lasts until 2015.

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