The Vote of No Confidence
The National Council may withdraw its confidence from the Federal Government or some of its members by a resolution to that effect. In this case the Federal Government or the Minister in question will be relieved of his/their office by the Federal President.
The vote of no confidence is the most rigorous instrument of political control. A decision of this nature is taken by a simple majority in the presence of at least one half of the Members of the National Council. If one fifth of the Members so demand in writing, the vote on a motion of no confidence has to be postponed to the next but one working day (§ 67 para 1 GOG-NR). These provisions are meant to obviate, or at least make more difficult, the use of accidental majorities in the case of a temporarily reduced presence of Members (for instance on account of a flu epidemic) to withdraw Parliament’s confidence from the Government.
Withdrawal of Confidence – "Political Responsibility"
There is no need to justify a vote of no confidence, even though most motions of this nature are accompanied by a detailed list of reasons. Nor is it necessary for a government member to have been guilty of misconduct in the legal sense of the term. The National Council may simply wish to state that the majority of Members no longer trust in the government member’s capacity to perform his/her duties in terms of representing the people. Accordingly, reference is often made to the ”political responsibility” of the Federal Government vis-à-vis the National Council.
Thus, a majority of the National Council might at any time cause the Federal Government to topple, and a Federal Government can only remain in office over a longer period if it has the support of the majority of Members of Parliament or, in the case of a minority government, is at least tolerated.
"A New Form of Separation of Powers" – Government Parties and the Opposition
The “parliamentary system of government“, in which the government relies on a parliamentary majority, has given rise to a new form of separation of powers. The front line is no longer between Parliament and the Government, as was the case in the constitutional monarchy where the government was only responsible to the monarch. Today, the division is between the government and the parliamentary parties that support it on the one hand and the opposition parties on the other.
This explains why motions of no confidence will never find a majority as long as stable political conditions prevail, even though the opposition will repeatedly try for a vote of no confidence. And yet – even the mere fact that a motion of no confidence has been introduced may have considerable effect, and not only because it attracts the attention of the media: the incriminated government member is forced to defend his/her position before the National Council, and the government parties have to see to it that as many of their Members as possible are present when the vote is taken.
Motions of No Confidence
Regarding form, motions of no confidence are motions for a resolution (cf. Art. 74 B-VG: ”... by an express resolution”...“motions of no confidence have the form of motions for a resolution“).They may be in the form of private Members’ motions (§ 26 GOG-NR) or draft resolutions relating to an item of business in hand (§ 55 GOG-NR). Motions of no confidence cannot be tabled in the form of an urgent motion (§ 74a GOG-NR), though they can be introduced as draft resolutions relating to an item of business in hand in the course of a debate on an urgent motion.
No Vote of No Confidence in the Federal Council
The vote of no confidence is a control instrument reserved to the National Council and cannot be applied by the Federal Council. Accordingly the continued existence of a Federal Government does not depend on the confidence of the Federal Council, and the government can remain in office even when it is faced with a hostile majority in the Federal Council. In actual fact this happens fairly often, since the majority in the Federal Council results from the majorities in the nine provinces, which are frequently different from the situation in the National Council.