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Proporz (from Latin proportio "ratio") describes the relationship between the members of a group and the number of their representatives in a decision-making body.


It is an abbreviation for proportionality and thus describes the proportionate participation of political groups ( parties ) in committees, governments and offices.

In common parlance it is mostly used to describe the practice of governing parties , especially in grand coalitions ( Austria , Germany ), to assign positions in the public service and in the nationalized economy to partisans according to their respective political strengths.

In Switzerland, the large chamber of the federal parliament is elected by proportional representation , while the small chamber with two representatives from each state ( canton (Switzerland) ) is elected by majority vote .

Typically, coalition governments are occupied (roughly) in proportion to the size of the parliamentary group (or their share of the vote) of the governing parties . The political scientist Gerhard Lehmbruch tried in 1967 to bundle the specific characteristics of the political system existing in Austria and Switzerland on a theoretical level in one term: proportional democracy .


In Austria, after 1945, party proportional representation was of particular importance in politics and in general in the filling of public offices, as emphasis was placed on a balanced distribution. Originally, proportional representation was considered a democratic stability factor after the experience of the civil war of 1934 , as it was supposed to prevent conflicts and counteract centrifugal forces in Austria.

In the first Austrian election for the word of the year at the end of 1999, the jury could not identify a word of the century, but Proporz was chosen as a "half- century word " because "it has shaped Austrian politics and social life like no other term since 1945" and it " the exact opposite was the case before in political life ”.


From 1945 to 1966 , large coalitions ruled throughout . In the case of ministries with a state secretary, this was usually from the other camp than the minister. In 1949, proportional representation was expanded to include those senior management ranks in charge of nationalized industry . After the great success of the right-wing Association of Independents (VdU) in the 1949 election , the “big two” ( SPÖ and ÖVP ) applied the proportional representation system at all administrative levels, also to limit the potential of the VdU. This also included the Austrian social partnership with its four main organizations: the ÖVP-led Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture , and the SPÖ-led trade union federation and Chamber of Labor , as well as the state media.

The Austrian Rundfunk Ges. Mb H. , founded in 1958, was made up of two men from the SPÖ and two from the ÖVP, with radio having a black director and television, which was initially underrated, had a red director. A unanimous decision was necessary on important issues. After the opinion-forming effect of television had been recognized in general, people began to wrestle for the influence there. As a common solution, a secret paper was negotiated during the coalition negotiations for the Gorbach II government in 1963 , according to which every senior position in radio and television was to be filled twice: a red head and a black deputy, or vice versa. After the text had been leaked to the courier , the latter initiated the radio referendum in 1964 in order to free the ORF from the parties' influence. Since each party feared for their influence, the implementation was not successful until 1966 under the sole government of Klaus II .

The critics of proportional representation complained about the party book economy , the consensus policy and the threat of depoliticization in the grand coalition: it crusts, vegetates listlessly and loses all momentum and fuel. “The conversion of solidarity into individual action entails a withdrawal of energy from the battlefield and marketplace of politics.” The question arises as to whether conflicts in democracy are beneficial as a modernization factor.


The proportional representation was part of the state constitutions of most federal states . This was a weakened form of all-party government (also: concentration government), whereby the parties represented in the state parliament are automatically entitled to a seat of government if they have reached a certain strength in the state elections .

Until 1999, all federal states with the exception of Vorarlberg had such a regulation; in 2017 there were only two countries left: Lower Austria and Upper Austria .

In 1999 Salzburg and Tyrol replaced proportional representation with a system of free majority and coalition formations. On June 30, 2011, proportional representation was abolished in Styria ( state government Voves II ) with the beginning of the 2015–2020 legislative period. Burgenland abolished proportional representation in December 2014 with a view to the state elections on May 31, 2015. In Carinthia, too, the abolition of proportional representation from 2018 onwards via a state constitutional reform, which had already been promised in 2013 by the three-party coalition SPÖ, ÖVP and Greens, was decided in principle in October 2015, and finally on June 1, 2017 the new state constitution, and thus the end of proportional representation, decided.

There are currently seven countries with a free system:

  • Vorarlberg (since 1923)
  • Salzburg (since 1999)
  • Tyrol (since 1999)
  • Vienna (with the peculiarity of differentiating between "official city councils " and those without a department)
  • Styria (since 2015)
  • Burgenland (since 2015)
  • Carinthia (since 2017)


The statutes of most cities also provide for city ​​council posts to be allocated according to proportional representation. So have u. a. Graz , Linz , Salzburg and Wiener Neustadt proportional regulations and thus city councils who belong to the opposition.


“The equilibrium principle has become such a characteristic part of Austrian domestic policy and thus of the organization of administration in the federal, state, municipal and publicly owned companies that one could say with good reason that most of the provisions of formal constitutional law, including republican Form of government, could be changed without profound consequences, as long as this principle remains in force, while a return to free political competition would be tantamount to a revolution, although a comma in the constitutional text would not have to be changed. "

- Gustav E. Kafka : 1958

“My cousin had a high post, he was a police doctor. He was satisfied, he told me. He could never get a job if a black man didn't get one, but he couldn't be kicked out either, if a black man wasn't kicked out too. "

- The writer Alfredo Bauer , who has returned from Argentina, is given proportional representation in Austria by his cousin


The term Proporz is used in Switzerland for the proportional representation of all citizens ( voters , voters ). Hence also proportional representation ( proportional representation ).


In South Tyrol , the term proportional representation describes the legally guaranteed distribution of public funds (regional budget, jobs in the public service, public social benefits) to the three recognized language groups (German, Italian, Ladin). see ethnic proportionality (South Tyrol) .


Female proportion

The Greens in the Federal Republic of Germany introduced the so-called Frauenproporz ( women's quota ) in their executive bodies and their lists of candidates for parliaments . This should ensure that at least 50% of the board positions and mandates go to women . It should be noted, however, that the Greens have significantly less than 50% female members, so that this regulation effectively represents a favor for women over men in the party.

This principle has been criticized for various reasons. Its application can sometimes lead to men fighting more doggedly for the male positions they have left or minorities , to whom a certain proportional representation was previously granted, no longer have equal opportunities. It is also feared that women are sometimes chosen for their capacity as women and not solely on the basis of their own abilities and qualities.

Similar quota regulations are also used by the Die Linke party .

Regional proportional

In Germany, personnel decisions in politics are also influenced by the so-called regional proportion. A well-known example is the cabinet appointments at the state level in Bavaria by the CSU , in which the origin of the ministers from the various regions of the Free State of Bavaria plays an important role in the election of ministers. But also at the federal level and with parties other than the CSU, regional proportionality can make the difference when filling top positions.


  1. ^ Lehmbruch, Gerhard: Proporzdemokratie: Political System and Political Culture in Switzerland and Austria ISBN 978-3-168-17671-8
  2. Jump up ↑ Jury: The “Half Hundred Word”. ( Memento of the original from April 2, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice., 1999 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. ^ Hugo Portisch: The popular initiative for the reform of broadcasting 1964 , in: Haimo Godler (ed.): From steam radio to sound wallpaper: Contributions to 80 years of radio in Austria , Böhlau Verlag Vienna, 2004, ISBN 978-3-205-77239-2 , P. 65ff. ( limited preview in Google Book search)
  4. ^ Ernst Hanisch : Austrian History 1890-1990 Vienna, 1994
  5. ^ Ralf Dahrendorf : Conflict and Freedom: On the Way to the Service Class Society Piper Verlag, Munich, 1972, ISBN 3-492-01782-7
  6. a b Styria abolishes proportional representation. In: Styria. ORF .at, June 30, 2011. Retrieved on August 14, 2012.
  7. Proportion has been abolished. In: December 11, 2014, accessed December 12, 2014 .
  8. ^ New state constitution adopted. In: kaernten. ORF .at, June 1, 2017. Accessed June 1, 2017.
  9. Austria's state constitutions: Proporz und Opposition , of October 28, 2015, last accessed on March 25, 2016.
  10. ^ Gustav E. Kafka, Graz: The constitutional position of the parties in the modern state - 2nd report , in: Association of German Criminal Law Teachers : Publications Constitutional Law Teachers 17 2ae - Conference on October 8, 1958 at the University of Vienna , p. 89
  11. The Standard Interview "It was Austria's enemies who drove us out" October 23, 2009
  12. Article from the Augsburger Allgemeine from October 16, 2008: "The Bavarian Confusion of Nations"
  13. Article from Wirtschaftswoche from December 17, 2013: "How the place of birth destroys competence"

Web links

Wiktionary: Proporz  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations