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The State of Carinthia: Introductory Note

Philip Raworth
Edited By: Philip Raworth

© 2018 Oxford University Press

Carinthia (Kärnten in German and Koroška in Slovenian) is one of the nine states (Länder) of Austria and the southernmost. It is bordered on the west by the State (Land) of Tyrol, on the north by the State of Salzburg, on the east by the State of Styria and on the south by Slovenia. It comprises a surface area of 9,535 square kilometers (3,682 square miles), making it the sixth largest of the Austrian states, and is the fifth most populous state with a population, as of 2015, of 557,371. The people are predominantly German-speaking but there is a Slovenia minority of around 60,000 in the southeast of the State. Carinthia is divided into eight districts (Bezirke) and two independent cities: Klagenfurt and Villach (Celovec and Beljak in Slovenian). The capital is Klagenfurt.

Originally a Slavic principality, Carinthia was created as a March within the kingdom of Bavaria by Carloman in 889 but was separated from Bavaria and made an independent duchy within the Holy Roman Empire by Emperor Otto II in 976. It came under the Habsburgs in 1335 and remained so until 1918. With the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, Carinthia became a constituent part of the Austrian Empire. After the end of the First World War and the fall of the Habsburg monarchy, southern Carinthia was occupied by Yugoslavian troops. A plebiscite was held on October 10, 1920 to determine the border between the Austrian State of Carinthia and Slovenia, which was then a part of Yugoslavia. During the Nazi occupation, Carinthia formed a Reichsgau with East Tyrol. After the Second World War, it was occupied by British troops who resisted attempts by Yugoslavia to occupy parts of Carinthia. The British occupation ended in 1955 with the Austrian State Treaty that restored the Austrian Republic with Carinthia as a component state.

Legislative Power

Legislative power in Carinthia is vested in the State Parliament (Landtag), which comprises thirty-six members who are elected for a five-year term on the basis of the equal, direct, secret and personal proportional representation of all citizens with their main residence in the State of Carinthia. The members of the State Parliament are not bound by any instructions in the exercise of their mandate. There is no provision for the Executive to dissolve the State Parliament before the end of its term, but it may dissolve itself prematurely by a decision in the presence of a quorum of at least two-thirds of the members of the State Parliament. The Federal Government may request the Federal President to dissolve the State Parliament with the approval of the Federal Assembly given in the presence of half the members and by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast. The Carinthian delegates to the Federal Assembly do not participate in this vote.

The normal rule is that laws require for adoption the presence of at least half the members of the State Parliament and more than half of the votes cast. State constitutional laws may be adopted by the State Parliament only by a majority of two-thirds of the votes cast. The repeal or amendment of the Carinthian National and Biosphere Park Law1 or Sections 3(1), 6, 13 to 20, 25, 27(1) and 39(4) of the Carinthian Law on the Operation of State Hospitals may also only be adopted by the State Parliament by a majority of two thirds of the votes cast. Likewise, the dissolution of the Carinthian State Holding Company by law may only be adopted by the State Parliament by a majority of two-thirds of the votes cast.

The right to initiate legislation belongs to the members of the State Parliament, its committees and the State Government. At least 15,000 persons entitled to vote for the State Parliament may present a proposal for a law (a popular initiative) to be dealt with by the State Parliament. The popular initiative must concern a matter regulated by a State law and may be presented in the form of a bill.

Laws are to be notified immediately after their adoption by the State Parliament to the Federal Chancery before their promulgation by the State Governor. The Federal Government may raise a reasoned objection against a law by the State Parliament on account of a threat to Federal interests within eight weeks from the day on which the law has arrived at the Federal Chancery. In the event of an objection, the law may only be promulgated if the State Parliament in the presence of at least half its members confirms it. There is no executive veto at the State level.

Once the procedure outlined above has ended, a law may be submitted to a referendum before its certification and countersigning if the State Parliament so decides. All persons eligible to vote for the State Parliament have a right to vote in the referendum. The majority of valid votes casts decides on acceptance or rejection.

The constitutional adoption of a law is to be certified by the President of the State Parliament and to be countersigned by the responsible members of the State Government. If a referendum is carried out, the certification and countersignature may occur only if the law is accepted. After certification, State laws are promulgated by the State Governor in the State Legal Gazette.

At least a third of the members of the State Parliament are authorized to apply to the Constitutional Court for the revocation of a State law, wholly or partially, as unconstitutional.

Executive Power

The executive power in Carinthia is vested in the State Government, which comprises the State Governor, the First and Second Deputy State Governors and four State Counselors. The State Governor presides over meetings of the State Government. He also represents the State and concludes the agreements of the State with the Federation and the other States.

The State Government is elected by the State Parliament. Only a person who is eligible to be elected to the State Parliament may be elected to the State Government. The State Governor is to be elected in the presence of at least two-thirds of the members of the State Parliament by more than half of the votes cast. If the election of the State Governor has already been placed twice on the agenda of a sitting of the State Parliament and if no election has occurred as a result of the lack of a quorum, he is to be elected in the presence of at least half the members of the State Parliament by more than half the votes cast. The three largest parties represented in the State Parliament may agree to elect the candidates proposed by them as the First and Second Deputy State Governor. Otherwise, their election takes place by proportional representation according to the votes received by the parties at the election for the State Parliament. The State Counselors are divided among the parties represented in the State Parliament according to the system of proportional representation.

The members of the State Government are responsible to the State Parliament, which has the right to withdraw its confidence (vote of no confidence) from the State Government or individual members of the State Government. A vote of no confidence may be adopted in the presence of at least two-thirds of the members of the State Parliament and by a majority of two-thirds of the votes cast. The State Government or an individual member of it must resign if it or he loses the confidence of the State Parliament.

The State Government has a quorum if four members are present including the chair. More than half the votes cast are required for a decision of the State Government. However, orders made pursuant to §§1 and 19 of the Carinthian National Park and Biosphere Park Law and orders made pursuant to §23 of the Carinthian Nature Conservation Law 2002 may be adopted or amended by the State Government only by a majority of two-thirds of the votes cast. Decisions of the State Government made pursuant to Carinthian State Holding Company Law may likewise only be taken by a majority of two-thirds of the votes cast, Decisions involving the special fund—“Carinthian Future”—of the Carinthian State Holding Company may only be taken by unanimity.

The State Government may order a referendum in order to find out the wishes of the citizens of the State on matters within the autonomous area of competence of the State that are of particular importance. A referendum is to be ordered if this is requested by at least 15,000 persons entitled to vote for the State Parliament.

Judicial Power

The State Constitution contains no provision on the judicial power.

Footnotes:

Nationparkgesetz.