A 30-year-old party leader is trying to remake Austria

Chancellor, maybe

TO UNDERSTAND Austria, visit the Karl-Marx-Hof. This vast municipal housing complex in Vienna is still riddled with bullet holes—not from fighting between Russians and Germans in 1945, but from a little-known civil war in 1934, when Austrian leftists and conservatives took up arms against each other. After the second world war, the country adopted a political system designed to prevent this from ever happening again: the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the Christian Democrats (ÖVP) would rule together and divvy up public offices under a system known as Proporz.

For 43 of the past 72 years the two parties have run Austria jointly, in grand coalitions. Their networks politicise everything from school boards and business groups to social clubs and unions. The result is a uniquely corporatist country.

Today, however, that system is breaking up. Other parties—first the far-right FPÖ, then the Greens, then the liberal NEOS—have…Continue reading

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