Austria: Phasing-out Grand Coalition Government

Wolfgang C. Müller

Grand coalition government of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP and the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) had been the hallmark of post-war Austria but the historic ‘grand coalition’ formula seems exhausted. The rationale for maintaining this cooperation vanished, electoral changes undermined the former duopoly of these parties, and party system changes brought new players into the game. Yet at the government level alternatives involving the FPÖ have proved instable as in each case an FPÖ event brought down the government or prevented its renewal. The chapter shows how routine formateur-led processes of coalition formation resulting in anticipated outcomes contrast with a few instances which significantly deviate. Coalition governance is characterized by the use of an elaborated set of rules and instruments and great continuity over time and different types of coalition. Accordingly, the underlying principle of coalition politics has been the ‘coalition compromise’ model (Martin & Vanberg), with government policies to be largely agreed between the coalition partners. In practice, ministerial discretion tends to shift policy government policy output towards the model of ‘constrained ministerial government’ (Dragu & Laver). Most coalitions terminated early because of inter-party conflict.


Institut für Staatswissenschaft
ÖFOS 2012
506014 Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft
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