House of Representatives (Austria)

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Assembly room of the House of Representatives 1883–1918

The House of Representatives was from 1861 to 1918, the lower house of the Austrian Empire Council . The manor (Austria) functioned as the upper house .


The provisional House of Representatives on Währinger Strasse in Vienna, disrespectfully referred to as the “Schmerlingtheater” and used from 1861–1883, in 1861

The House of Representatives met, at that time still responsible for the entire monarchy, like the manor house for the first time on April 29, 1861. In 1867, the number of representatives to be sent by the state parliaments in the December constitution , which (after the so-called compensation ) the Kingdom of Hungary did not more concerned, set at 203; 54 of these were in Bohemia , 38 in Galicia , Lodomeria and Krakow , 22 in Moravia and 18 in Austria under the Enns .

The meetings took place until 1883 in the temporary building on Währinger Strasse in Vienna. The historic meeting room of the House of Representatives in the newly built Reichsratsgebäude , which last offered space for 516 members from Bukovina to Dalmatia , was used for a meeting for the first time on December 4, 1883. Today this hall of the parliament building is normally only used for the sessions of the Federal Assembly on the occasion of the swearing-in of the Federal President and for other state acts at which both chambers of parliament are assembled.

Curia election from 1873

In 1873 the number of MPs was increased from 203 to 353 at the request of the liberal ministry Adolf von Auersperg . The mandataries previously elected annually by the state parliaments have been determined by direct elections for an electoral period of six years since the electoral reform of 1873. The right to vote for the curia was applied. There were four curiae in which the voters were classified according to their status and wealth. The curia of large landowners comprised 85 members of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry 21, large and medium-sized farmers (rural communities) elected 128. All other male citizens living in cities who were at least 24 years old and at least 10 guilders annually (from 1882 five guilders ) paid direct taxes, 118 members could vote in the fourth curia. This corresponded to a total of 6% of the adult population.

On June 14, 1896, the number of MPs was increased to 425 and a fifth, general class of voters was introduced, in which all men were eligible to vote (see below). On the occasion of the abolition of the right to vote in a curia, the number of representatives was increased to 516 on January 21, 1907.

General male suffrage

The social democratic election committee for the second constituency ( Steyr ) calls for an electoral meeting

On October 10, 1893, the Imperial and Royal Eduard Taaffe government submitted a bill to the House of Representatives, which would have meant the abolition of the fourth curia and the introduction of universal suffrage for the third curia. However, this met with strong resistance from most MPs, so that the electoral reform did not materialize.

Prime Minister Badeni was more successful in 1896 : the reform of the electoral law he implemented drastically changed the character of the House of Representatives. A fifth, general class of voters was introduced for all male citizens over the age of 24. The new voter class was able to send 72 of the 425 mandataries to the House of Representatives. As a result, there was a profound political shift in parliament. The old conservative and liberal dignitary parties lost their importance, the modern mass parties, especially Social Democrats and Christian Socialists, benefited from the new suffrage.

During the electoral reforms introduced by Prime Minister Paul Gautsch (after the major social democratic demonstrations of 1905) in 1906 and continued by his successor Max Wladimir von Beck appointed on June 2, 1906 , the last of the monarchy's electoral reform, after initially fierce resistance in the manor house (see: Parliament and Emperor) abolished the previous five electoral curiae and introduced general, equal, secret and direct suffrage for all men.

According to this new order, 516 members were elected in 1907 (see Reichsrat election 1907 ). Of these, 130 were in Bohemia, 106 in Galicia, 64 in Austria under the Enns and 49 in Moravia. The 1911 Reichsrat election was the last with universal male suffrage.

Both elections reinforced the trend towards the new mass parties: in 1907 the Christian Socials and in 1911 the Social Democrats became the strongest group. In the summer of 1917, the term of office of the MPs elected in 1911 was extended until the end of 1918 due to the war.

Numerous parties and groups were represented in the House of Representatives because all political directions were organized separately as parties in the individual nationalities of Cisleithania. The negotiations of the Reichsrat were often shaped by disputes between nationalities. It was not just about fundamental issues, but also about a large number of local conflicts that only affected two nationalities. Under these conditions, it was very difficult to organize a majority in support of the government (which did not depend on the trust of the Reichsrat). The Imperial Council was repeatedly suspended by the Emperor on the proposal of the government because of the escalating national conflicts.

Parliament and government

In the years 1867 to 1879 the German Liberal Party had a majority in the House of Representatives of the Reichsrat. It provided the governments of the Prime Ministers Karl Wilhelm Philipp von Auersperg and Adolf Carl Daniel von Auersperg . With its decline, the German dominance in the Reichsrat ended.

The government of Count Eduard von Taaffe was based on the German-Austrian clericals and the Czech and Polish conservatives from 1879 to 1893. In 1882 it lowered the census limit for eligibility to vote from 10 to 5 guilders tax payments per year. Fiercely fought by the radical national parties, Taaffe failed in an attempt to introduce almost universal suffrage.

After 1893, no government was able to win the constant support of the majority in the House of Representatives.

Parliament and Emperor

Bohemian future parliamentary musician (1900)

Emperor Franz Joseph I , who initially ruled absolutely , was for a long time suspicious of parliamentarianism, which he had to concede to the growing bourgeoisie ; but he adhered strictly to the constitution sanctioned by him. The gradual expansion of the right to vote had to be laboriously wrested from the skeptical emperor in the 19th century by the respective governments.

The repeatedly passed imperial resolutions to adjourn the Imperial Council did not stem from absolutist impulses, but were made at the suggestion of the Imperial and Royal Government when the Imperial Council was unable to deliberate and make decisions due to obstruction, mostly by Czech MPs from the Kingdom of Bohemia .

Franz Joseph only visited the parliament building twice, at the topping-out ceremony and at the inauguration. The deputies had to listen to the speeches from the throne in the Hofburg . In doing so, the court tried to uphold the fiction that the emperor was still the actual ruler, as the stereotypical introduction of the passed laws suggested: With the consent of both houses of the Reichsrat, I would like to order as follows ...

After the Russian Revolution of 1905, the Kaiser changed his attitude towards parliament and actively pursued the introduction of universal male suffrage, as was demanded by the Social Democrats in large-scale demonstrations, together with his Prime Minister Max Wladimir von Beck . Heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand opposed this in 1906 with aristocratic landowners and wanted to overturn the reform in the manor house. The emperor then had his two chief stewards , Rudolf Prince Liechtenstein and Alfred Prince Montenuovo , speak for the reform in couloir discussions in the manor house (official requests to speak could not be identified in the shorthand protocols). The electoral reform came into effect in 1907.

The Reichsrat, which had been adjourned since the spring of 1914 at the suggestion of Prime Minister Karl Graf Stürgkh, was not involved in the decision to go to war. Emperor Karl I , who took office on November 21, 1916, convened the Reichsrat for May 30, 1917 and did not postpone it. The House of Representatives held its last session on November 12, 1918, after the Kaiser had declared on November 11 that he would renounce any share in state affairs.


Opening session of the House of Representatives in 1907

The House of Representatives and the Manor House deliberated in twelve legislative periods (LP) from 1861 to 1918 , which correlated with the Reichsrat elections carried out for the House of Representatives. During these legislative periods, sessions of both houses took place, which were ended by adjournments of the Reichsrat when there were problems that could not be resolved in parliament and the Imperial and Royal Government believed that it could only progress through imperial decrees; This was last the case in the spring of 1914. The 22 sessions were numbered from 1861 to 1918. The V. LP (1873–1879), the VI. LP (1879–1885), the VII. LP (1885–1891), the VIII. LP (1891–1897) and the X. LP (1901–1907). They face very short legislative periods (e.g. III. LP, 1870/1871) and the IX. Legislative period that split into five sessions due to four adjournments of the Reichsrat in the three years 1897-1900. The length of the sessions depended on the House of Representatives. If this was postponed, the mansion was also not allowed to meet.

Laws came into being when both Houses of the Imperial Council approved them and the emperor issued his sanction . If no agreement was reached between the two houses of the Reichsrat in a finance law or in the recruits law (on the amount of the contingent to be levied ), the lower number was considered approved until 1917 according to § 13 of the Basic Law on Reich Representation of 1867 . The reference in the literature that such legislative resolutions could have come into force without the consent of the Herrenhaus is only correct if the Herrenhaus had passed a larger number of such a law than the Chamber of Deputies. As a general rule, this is incorrect. In July 1917 it was decided that in the event of such divergences between the two houses of the Reichsrat, a mediation committee would have to act.

See also: List of Members of the Austrian House of Representatives (12th legislative period) 1911–1918


Leopold Hasner Ritter von Artha, President of the House of Representatives

Presidents of the House of Representatives were:


The House of Representatives originally met in the so-called Schmerlingtheater on Währinger Straße, while the manor house was provisionally located in the Lower Austrian country house on Herrengasse for the first 22 years.

There were plans for both houses to erect representative buildings on Vienna's new Ringstrasse. There were considerations to create separate buildings for the two houses of the Reichsrat; they were discarded in favor of a common building. The architectural competition in 1864 was followed by the construction of the Imperial and Royal Reichsrat building on what was then Franzensring, based on a design by Theophil Hansen, in 1874–1883.

The conference room and other rooms of the House of Representatives were built in the northern half of the Reichsrat building. The Chamber of Deputies is the largest assembly room. It is still used today for special occasions and the Federal Assembly .

See also

Individual evidence

(RGBl. = Imperial Law Gazette for the Austrian Empire, published 1852 to 1869, or for the kingdoms and countries represented in the Imperial Council, published 1870 to 1918)

  1. ^ Stenographic minutes of the opening session of the House of Representatives of the Reichsrathes
  2. RGBl. No. 141/1867 (= p. 389)
  3. Law of January 26, 1907, RGBl. No. 15/1907 (= p. 57)
  4. RGBl. No. 300/1917 (= p. 729)
  5. ^ Friedrich Weissensteiner: Franz Ferdinand. The prevented ruler , Österr. Bundesverlag, Vienna 1983, ISBN 3-215-04828-0 , p. 164 f.
  6. RGBl. No. 300/1917

Web links

Commons : House of Representatives (Austria)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files