The Austrian People's Party (German: Österreichische Volkspartei; ÖVP) is a Christian democratic and conservative political party in Austria. A successor to the Christian Social Party of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is similar to the Christian Democratic Union of Germany in terms of ideology, with both operating as catch-all parties of the centre-right. The Austrian People's Party was founded immediately following the reestablishment of the Republic of Austria in 1945, and since then has been one of the two largest Austrian political parties with the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ). In federal governance, the ÖVP is currently the smaller partner in a coalition government with the SPÖ, with ÖVP party leader Reinhold Mitterlehner as Vice-Chancellor of Austria.
The Austrian People's Party is conservative. For most of its existence, the People's Party has explicitly defined itself as Catholic and anti-socialist; the ideal of subsidiarity as defined by the encyclical Quadragesimo anno is generally considered one of the historical cornerstones of its agenda.
For the first election after World War II, ÖVP presented itself as the Austrian Party („die österreichische Partei“), was decidedly anti-Marxist and regarded itself as the Party of the Centre („Partei der Mitte“). The ÖVP consistently held power – either alone or in so-called Black-Red coalition with the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) – until 1970, when the SPÖ formed a minority government with the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ). The ÖVP's economic policies during the era generally upheld a social market economy.
As of 2013, with regard to economic policy, the Austrian People's Party advocates economic liberalization, endorsing the reduction of Austria's relatively large public sector, welfare reform, and general deregulation. With regard to foreign affairs it strongly supports European integration. Over the last two decades, the People's Party has also adopted a more environmentalist stance than other similar conservative parties.
The Austrian People's Party is popular mainly amongst white-collar workers, owners of large and small businesses, and farmers. In particular, it receives the backing of a majority of Austria's civil servants, a remarkably large and influential group due to the size and scope of Austria's government bureaucracy. Austria's blue-collar workers, by comparison, tend to endorse the Social Democratic Party and the Freedom Party. All in all, People's Party supporters are comparatively educated and affluent.
The Austrian People's Party is the successor of the Christian Social Party, a staunchly conservative movement founded in 1893 by Karl Lueger, mayor of Vienna and highly controversial right-wing populist. Most of the members of the Austrian People's party during its founding belonged to the former Fatherland Front, which was led by chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, also a member of the Christian Social Party before the Anschluss. While still sometimes honored by ÖVP members for resisting Hitler, the regime built by Dollfuß was authoritarian in nature and has been dubbed as "Austrofascism". In its present form, the People's Party was established immediately after the restoration of Austria's independence in 1945; it has been represented in both the Federal Assembly ever since. In terms of Federal Assembly seats, the People's Party has consistently been the strongest or second-strongest party; as such, it has led or at least been a partner in most Austria's federal cabinets.
At the state level, the People's Party has long dominated the rural states of Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, and Vorarlberg. It is less popular in the city state of Vienna and in the rural but less strongly Catholic states of Burgenland and Carinthia. In 2004 it lost its plurality in the State of Salzburg, where they kept its result in seats (14) in 2009 and in 2005 in Styria for the first time.
The ÖVP won a sweeping victory in Austria's first postwar election, in December 1945, winning almost half the popular vote and an absolute majority in the legislature. However, memories of the hyperpartisanship that had plagued the First Republic prompted the ÖVP to maintain the grand coalition with the Social Democrats that had governed the country since the restoration of independence in early 1945. It remained the senior partner in this coalition until 1966, and governed alone from 1966 to 1970. It reentered the government in 1986, but has never been completely out of power since the restoration of Austrian independence in 1945, due to a longstanding tradition that all major interest groups were to be consulted on policy.
After the 1999 election, several months of negotiations ended in early 2000 when the People's Party formed a coalition government with the right-wing populist Freedom Party of Austria of its then-leader Jörg Haider. Although the FPÖ was the larger of the two, it was considered far too controversial to lead a government, so the ÖVP's Wolfgang Schüssel became chancellor. This caused widespread outrage in Europe, and the European Union imposed informal diplomatic sanctions on Austria, the first time that it imposed sanctions on a member state. Bilateral relations were frozen, including contacts and meetings at an inter-governmental level, and Austrian candidates would not be supported for posts in EU international offices. Austria, in turn, threatened to veto all applications by countries for EU membership until the sanctions were lifted. A few months later, these sanctions were dropped as a result of a fact-finding mission by three former European prime ministers, the so-called "three wise men". In November 2002, the 2002 legislative election resulted in a landslide victory (42.27% of the vote) for the People's Party under Schüssel. Haider's Freedom Party was reduced to 10.16% of the vote.
After the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) had split from the FPÖ in 2005, so that they could continue their coalition together with the People's Party until 2007. Austria for the first time had a government containing of a party that was founded during the parliamentary term.
In the 2006 election, the People's Party were defeated and after much negotiations agreed to become junior partner in a grand coalition with the Social Democrats, with new Party chairman Wilhelm Molterer as Finance Minister and Vice-Chancellor under SPÖ leader Alfred Gusenbauer, who became Chancellor. The next legislative election in 2008 saw the party lose 15 seats with an 8.35% decrease in its share of the vote.
The ÖVP won the largest share of the vote (30.0% (−2.7%)) in the 2009 election for the European Parliament with 846,709 votes (+28,993) but their number of seats remained the same.
The chart below shows a timeline of the Christian Democratic chairpersons and the Chancellors of Austria. The left black bar shows all the chairpersons (Bundesparteiobleute, abbreviated as "CP") of the ÖVP party, and the right bar shows the corresponding make-up of the Austrian government at that time. The red (SPÖ) and black (ÖVP) colours correspond to which party led the federal government (Bundesregierung, abbreviated as "Govern."). The last names of the respective chancellors are shown, the Roman numeral stands for the cabinets.