The international competition on the subject of “History and Development of Parliamentarianism in Austria“ addressed itself to scholars, authors of doctoral theses and organisations or collaborating groups that had authored a scientific publication or completed an approved doctoral thesis on the subject of the competition, particularly in such disciplines as political science, law, history, journalism and media as well as philosophy. A total of 27 such papers were submitted by authors from Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the USA. Their authors represented the following disciplines: History, contemporary history, political science, constitutional law, German studies and information management.
The jury selected two submissions. These were the publication “Die österreichischen Abgeordneten. Individuelle Präferenzen und politisches Verhalten.“ (Austrian Members of Parliament. Individual Preferences and Political Attitudes), WUV Universitätsverlag, Vienna 2001, by Univ. Prof. Dr. Wolfgang C. Müller, Mag. Marcelo Jenny, Dr. Barbara Steininger, Dr. Martin Dolezal, Dr. Wilfried Philipp und Mag. Sabine Preisl-Westphal, and the doctoral thesis ”Die politische Partei im Verfassungsrecht – Parteiendemokratie, Parteienbegriffe und Parteienfreiheit“ (The political party as a subject of constitutional law – party democracy, party concepts and party freedom), Vienna 2002, by Univ. Ass. Dr. Patricia Heindl.
The study “Die österreichischen Abgeordneten“ deals in particular with
- the activities of Members in their constituencies (time spent on consultations, contacts, activities…),
- the role of parliamentary parties in the work of Members (to what extent do the political preferences of the Members of one and the same party agree and what differences are there between the different parties; how do Members see their own political and parliamentary parties, where do they seek guidance for their decisions, what decision-making patterns prevail in the parliamentary parties and in what way are decisions usually arrived at; and lastly, how much coherence does there actually prevail within the parliamentary groups,
- the work of Members in Parliament (specialisation, use of parliamentary instruments, concentration on different phases of the parliamentary process etc.),
- Members and public relations,
- connections between their activities as MPs on the one hand and as party members and members of associations outside Parliament on the other,
- changes in focal points and activity profiles in the course of their careers as MPs,
- the effects of European integration on the work of MPs,
- the work of Members of the Federal Council.
The doctoral thesis “Die politische Partei im Verfassungsrecht“ by Patricia Heindl deals extensively with the law governing political parties in Austria. The author explores the position of political parties in constitutional law, and seeks to discover inconsistencies and gaps in party law and to define the scope of action left by constitutional law for possible changes.
The thesis consists of three parts, the first of which deals with party democracy and its relation to the ”free mandate“ principle; the second part analyses the three forms of party – political party, campaigning party and parliamentary party –, the way they are separate and distinct from one another and the relations between them; and the third part is dedicated to the subject of party freedom – the fundamental rights par excellence of a political party.
Her central finding: Kelsen noted already in the preface to his work “Vom Wesen und Wert der Demokratie“ (On the Nature and Value of Democracy) that “democracy today [becomes] a problem when faced with party dictatorship – from the left and the right –, just as it did in the past in its relation with a monarchical autocracy“. This finding is as true today as ever. It is all the more important, it would appear, to instil new life into the precepts of party law and adjust it to the realities of the political world of today. A thoughtful re-adaptation of legal rules would be more in accordance with the actual importance of parties than the rudimentary provisions of current party law.
Like parliamentary law, party law is “law in one’s own cause” - which means that the Members of Parliament adopt provisions that govern, first and foremost, their own activities, or in other words, they lay down the rules of their own game. Seen from this angle, the fact that it is exactly the parties themselves that act in a relatively unregulated area has negative effects on the trust of the people in the legislative power. It would therefore be all the more important to devise and implement meaningful legal rules that would settle the matter in a satisfactory way.
Photos of the award ceremony