Austria - Local government



Austria is divided into nine provinces (Länder): Vienna (Wien), Lower Austria (Niederösterreich), Upper Austria (Oberösterreich), Styria (Steiermark), Carinthia (Kärnten), Tyrol (Tirol), Salzburg, Burgenland, and Vorarlberg. The relationship between the provinces and the central government is defined by the constitution. Most administrative, legislative, and judicial authority—including taxation, welfare, and police—is granted to the central government. The Länder, which enjoy all residual powers, act as executors of federal authority.

Each province has its own unicameral legislature, elected on the basis of proportional representation. All legislation must be submitted through the provincial governor (Landeshauptmann) to the competent federal ministry for concurrence. If such concurrence is not obtained, the provincial legislature can reinstate the bill by majority vote. In case of prolonged conflict between the federal authorities and the provincial legislatures, the Constitutional Court may be appealed to for settlement.

The provincial governor, elected by the provincial legislature (Landtag), is assisted by a cabinet (Landesrat) consisting of ministries analogous to those at the federal level. Each province is divided into several administrative districts (Bezirke), each of which is under a district commissioner (Bezirkshauptmann). Local self-government is vested in popularly elected communal councils which, in turn, elect various local officers, including the mayor (Bürgermeister) and his deputies. There are some 2,300 communities in Austria, as well as 14 cities that have independent charters and fall directly under provincial authority rather than that of the districts. Vienna is both a municipality and a province.

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