The interests of Austria's nine provinces are represented at the federal level in the Bundesrat (Federal Council), the upper house of parliament. The Bundesrat has sixty-three seats, which are apportioned among the provinces on the basis of population. Each province is guaranteed at least three seats. As of late 1993, the breakdown of seats was as follows: Vienna and Lower Austria had twelve each; Styria and Upper Austria, ten each; Tirol, five; Carinthia and Salzburg, four each; and Burgenland and Vorarlberg, three each. The members of the Bundesrat are elected by the provincial legislatures on the basis of proportional representation. At least one seat must be given to the party having the second largest number of seats in the provincial legislature. If several parties have the same number of seats, the party that won the second largest number of votes in the last provincial election is awarded a seat in the Bundesrat.
The main purpose of the Bundesrat is to protect provincial interests, but its powers are restricted because the government is not answerable to it. All laws passed by the Nationalrat must be presented to the Bundesrat for review. However, the Bundesrat can at most delay the passage of laws by means of a suspensive veto. In such a case, the bill is sent back to the Nationalrat, which can override the Bundesrat's veto by reapproving the bill. Once this is done, the bill becomes law. In 1984 the body's powers were increased by a constitutional amendment that required approval by two-thirds of the Bundesrat to any proposed constitutional change in the distribution of competencies between the federal government and the provinces. Despite this change, the Bundesrat remains a weak institution.
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