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Reader question: Can I vote in Austria’s presidential elections?

On October 9th, Austria will vote to elect a new president, but who can vote in these national elections?

vote ballot petition
Austrians are voting to elect a new president. (Photo by Arnaud Jaegers on Unsplash)

Austria’s presidential election will take place on October 9th, with seven candidates vying to take over at the Hofburg – the official workplace of the country’s president.

According to opinion polls, the favourite to win is the current president Alexander Van der Bellen, who is running for reelection.

READ ALSO: Austrian presidential elections: Who are the seven candidates?

A presidential candidate must be an Austrian citizen, be eligible to vote in the National Assembly and be at least 35 years old on election day.

Members of ruling dynasties or families that reigned in the past are not eligible to run in the presidential election. This is to avoid a return to monarchy in Austria via the role of the Federal President.

Who can vote in these elections?

The only people allowed to vote in Austrian federal elections are Austrian citizens aged 16 or above.

That means foreigners – even those born and raised in Austria, are not entitled to choose a new president. Unless, of course, they take up Austrian citizenship (usually giving up their original citizenship).

Since Austria has a large proportion of foreigners in the population, many people will not be able to vote in these elections.

READ ALSO: ‘I pay taxes in Austria’: Anger as foreigners barred from Vienna council vote

In fact, some 18 percent of residents (or 1.4 million people) in Austria over the age of 16 do not have the right to vote because they are not citizens, with the highest concentration of ineligible people in Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg.

In comparison, 20 years ago, Austria had just 580,000 people without the right to vote.

Statistics Austria data evaluated by the APA shows that around 30 percent of the voting-age population in Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg are not entitled to vote. In Linz and Graz, it is about 25 percent.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How does Austria’s presidential election work?

However, there are some smaller communities in Austria where the number of people without the right to vote is even higher.

In Jungholz in Tyrol, 66 percent of the population are not eligible, followed by 51 percent in Mittelberg in Vorarlberg. Kittsee in Burgenland and Wolfsthal in Lower Austria also have high proportions of Slovakian residents who cannot vote.

Austrian citizenship

Currently, in Austria, if someone wants to take up citizenship via naturalisation, they must undergo an extensive and expensive process and fulfil specific criteria.

Generally, there needs to be at least ten years of lawful and uninterrupted residence in Austria. But there are exceptions for those with citizenship of an EU or EEA country, those born in Austria, or married to an Austrian, for example.

READ ALSO: Could Austria change the rules around citizenship?

The main hurdles, however, include having to give up any other citizenships, as Austria doesn’t allow for dual citizenship in naturalisation cases with few exceptions, and the payment of a high fee, which depends on the municipality, but could reach thousands of euros.

And though the topic of easing the requirements has come up several times in Austria, the country doesn’t seem any closer to changing its citizenship laws.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Where in Europe can non-EU foreigners vote in local elections?

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AUSTRIAN CITIZENSHIP

Austrian citizenship: Can you be rejected because of a driving offence?

Naturalisation processes may be on the rise in Austria, but citizenship is still hard to get, and any mistake could mean you miss out on the opportunity. Here's what you need to know.

Austrian citizenship: Can you be rejected because of a driving offence?

Becoming a citizen of another country is a big decision, especially in a country with many requirements, rules and fees like Austria. For example, in order to apply for naturalisation, you need to have lived in Austria for at least six years (or up to ten in some cases) and must meet another range of criteria.

The requirements fall into several broad categories, one of which is that you must have no criminal convictions and there are no pending proceedings against you.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Who is entitled to Austrian citizenship by descent and how to apply for it?

Additionally, people who have received one or more administrative penalties in Austria are also barred from applying for at least five years if at least one of those penalties incurred fines of more than €1,000.

Administrative violations include drinking and driving, running a red light or stop sign and, yes, speeding. If your speeding fine totalled more than €1,000, – meaning you have likely been well beyond the speed limit – you need to pay it and wait five years before applying for citizenship. 

How high are speeding fines in Austria?

There are no specific amounts that people need to pay for each offence. Instead, the law stipulates a range, and a judge will decide on a case by case basis.

Exceeding the maximum speed limit will result in a fine from €300 to €5,000 with the amount depending on aggravating factors such as how far above the speed limit the driver was and whether they had previous speeding offences.

READ ALSO: Does Austria have a street car racing problem?

Other offences that can lead to fines of more than €1,000 include driving with an alcohol content above the limit, driving in dangerous conditions such as by participating in illegal street races, failing to stop to provide assistance after a traffic accident and others. 

Other requirements

Being “blameless” is just one requirement for naturalisation in Austria. The applicant must also prove that they speak German to an adequate degree and that they are integrated (they need to show a German certificate and pass a citizenship test).

Additionally, you are barred from applying for citizenship if you have received minimum income support for more than 36 months within the last six years. 

You (or your partner) also need to have a regular income at the moment of application that “sufficiently secures your livelihood”. For a single person living alone, this means your net monthly income minus regular monthly expenses (such as rent and loan payments) needs to be higher than €1,030.49 (2022 numbers).

If the person has one child, the amount goes up to €1,189.49.

READ ALSO: How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

Those are very high standards in a country where the average net income is €2,161.99 and rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the Vienna city centre averages €915. Furthermore, there are also costs to the citizenship process. In the capital, people can expect to pay between €1,200 and €1,500 for the bureaucracy – not adding values for any translation needed, for example.

Finally, a significant requirement, one that certainly puts off many, is that the person naturalising must give up their original citizenship. This is because Austria will only accept dual citizenship after naturalisation in extremely rare cases.

READ ALSO: Austrian citizenship: Do you really have to renounce your original nationality?

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