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Yearbook 2016

Austria. After Austria received close to 90,000 asylum seekers during the great wave of migrants in Europe 2015 and Chancellor Werner Faymann long defended the generous refugee policy, the rules were tightened step by step from the beginning of the year.

2016 Austria

The government decided to limit the number of asylum seekers to be accepted to 127,000 in four years. Then a ceiling was set for how many people could apply for asylum per day and for how many asylum seekers who would be allowed to pass through the country daily. A decision was also made to build the border fence to keep migrants out. In April, a disputed law was passed which meant that most asylum seekers could be rejected directly at the border with the help of an emergency permit. In addition, granted asylum would only last for three years.

According to countryaah, the ruling large coalition between the Social Democratic SP and the Conservative People's Party (VP) suffered a major defeat when the first round of the presidential election was held in April. The candidates for the two parties that dominated politics throughout the post-war period - and dared to occupy the mainly ceremonial presidential post - received only 11% of the votes each, finishing fourth and fifth respectively. Most votes were given to Norbert Hofer, candidate for the right-wing populist Freedom Party (FP), followed by the independent Alexander Van der Bellen, who had the support of the Greens, as well as an independent candidate. That meant a rant that echoed throughout Europe that Austria could be on the verge of voting for a head of state that represented a party with roots in Nazism.

Shortly afterwards, Chancellor Faymann resigned unexpectedly, citing that his party SP was divided on several important issues. New Chancellor and SP leader became former railway manager Christian Kern.

In the second round of the presidential election in May, Van der Bellen won by only 31,000 votes. But the FP appealed the result and the Constitutional Court annulled it. A new round of elections was to be held in October but had to be postponed when it was discovered that the voting envelope could not close due to substandard adhesive. When the election was finally held on December 4, Van der Bellen won with 53% of the vote. The Austrians thus became the first in the world to elect an environmentalist as head of state.

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