Liberalism in Austria

Liberalism in Austria

This article gives an overview of liberalism in Austria. It is limited to liberal parties with substantial support, mainly proved by having had a representation in parliament. The sign ⇒ denotes another party in that scheme. For inclusion in this scheme it isn't necessary so that parties labeled themselves as a liberal party.


  • History until 1945 1
  • History from 1945 2
  • Today 3
  • Liberal Political Parties in Austria 4
  • Liberal leaders 5
  • Liberal thinkers 6
  • See also 7
  • Sources 8

History until 1945

In the Austrian Empire a national liberal current evolved in the 19th century. Liberalism in Austria reached its peak at the time of the Pan-Germanism was inherited from Austria-Hungary into the Austrian Republic; the Greater German People's Party and the Landbund represented liberal, anti-clerical and pan-German voters. Both parties lost ground with the rise of Nazism in the 1930s and were later dissolved by the regime of Engelbert Dollfuss.

History from 1945

With the foundation of the Federation of Independents in 1949, a predominantly liberal party once again existed in Austria, but it was soon overtaken by nationalist elements and later merged in to the Freedom Party of Austria, which was founded in 1955 by former Nazis. The attraction of the party to some of its voters lay in its opposition to both the catholic clericalism of the Austrian People's Party and to the Marxism of the Social Democratic Party of Austria. Liberal politicians gained control over the Freedom Party during the years from 1980 to 1986, when it was led by Norbert Steger. However, its participation in a coalition under socialist Chancellor Fred Sinowatz brought it to the verge of extinction, which allowed Jörg Haider to take control of the party in 1986.

With the support of the remaining Pan-Germans (the appeal of whose own views has an equally small appeal to the Austrian electorate today), he transformed it into a right-wing populist, frequently immigration-sceptic party. The Freedom Party was subsequently expelled from the Liberal International, and the remaining liberals seceded to found the Liberal Forum (Liberales Forum, member LI, ELDR) in 1993. However, when the Liberal Forum lost its seats in parliament in 1999 and became a micro-party, liberalism effectively ceased to exist as a political force in Austria. In 2012 the social-liberal media especially Der Standard states the Pirate Party Austria could become the new Liberal Forum.


The conservative Austrian People's Party labels itself the party of open society in its manifesto. The Austrian Green Party, however, holds the most liberal views on social issues. The Alliance for the Future of Austria which was founded in 2005 as a split-off from the Freedom Party, sometimes considered itself right-libertarian("rechtsliberal").

Other small parties on the liberal spectrum include the Democrats and the Social Liberals.

However, liberalism today is best represented by NEOS – The New Austria. The party calls itself a movement from the center of the people. It has been founded in October 2012 and moved into the national parliament less than one year later. In early 2014 – right before starting the election campaigns – they unified with the Liberal Forum and JuLis (Junge Liberale, Young Liberals) and form NEOS – The New Austria and Liberal Forum.

Liberal Political Parties in Austria

  • 1861: Liberals from various parliamentary factions united in the Constitutional Party (Verfassungspartei)
  • 1873: A radical faction of the Constitutional Party formed the Progressive Club (Fortschrittsklub), while a right-wing faction formed the conservative Constitutionalist Landlordism (Verfassungstreuer Großgrundbesitz) group
  • 1881: The Constitutional Party merged with the Progressive Club to form the United Left (Vereinigte Linke)
  • 1885: The United Left fractured into a Liberal German Austrian Club (Deutsch-Österreichischer Klub) and a nationalist German Club (Deutscher Klub)
  • 1888: The remnants of the United Left merged with the moderate parts of the German Club into the United German Left (Verenigte Deutsche Linke)
  • 1891: The Constitutionalist Landlordism merged with the United German Left
  • 1897: The merger was dissolved leaving a Constitutionalist Landlordism and the German Progressive Party (Deutsche Fortschrittspartei)
  • 1911: These elements merged into the nationalist German National League (Deutscher Nationalverband), and liberal forces ceased to exist in name
  • 1918-1934 The Landbund and Greater German People's Party each comprised liberal factions and ideas
  • 1949: With the formation of the Federation of Independents, many liberals became active in this party, but were soon marginalized by the nationalist factions. After the merger into the nationalist Freedom Party of Austria (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs) this situation continued.
  • 1993: Liberal dissidents inside the Freedom Party of Austria, which was more or less a liberal controlled party from 1980 to 1986, formed the Liberal Forum (Liberales Forum)
  • 2012: A totally new group forms a new party called the NEOS – The New Austria. Less than one year later they move into the national Parlamant.
  • 2014: Fusion of the Liberal Forum and NEOS – The New Austria to NEOS – The New Austria and Liberal Forum. Also the JuLis (Junge Liberale, Young Liberals) joined the Party.

Liberal leaders

Liberal thinkers

In the Contributions to liberal theory the following Austrian thinkers are included:

See also


  • Website of Liberal Forum (in German)
  • Malachi Haim Hacohen. Karl Popper - The Formative Years, 1902-1945: Politics and Philosophy in Interwar Vienna. Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN 0521890551, 9780521890557