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Alfred Gusenbauer
Alfred Gusenbauer 26.10.2008.jpg
Chancellor of Austria
In office
11 January 2007 – 2 December 2008
President Heinz Fischer
Vice-Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer
Preceded by Wolfgang Schüssel
Succeeded by Werner Faymann
Chair of the Social Democratic Party
In office
28 April 2000 – 8 August 2008
Preceded by Viktor Klima
Succeeded by Werner Faymann
Member of the National Council
In office
30 October 2006 – 15 January 2007
Succeeded by Gabriele Binder-Maier
Constituency 3C – Mostviertel
In office
29 January 1993 – 29 October 2006
Constituency 3 – Lower Austria
Member of the Federal Council
In office
21 February 1991 – 28 January 1993
Constituency 3 – Lower Austria
Personal details
Born (1960-02-08) 8 February 1960 (age 63)
Sankt Pölten, Austria
Political party Social Democratic Party
Alma mater University of Vienna

Alfred Gusenbauer (born 8 February 1960) is an Austrian politician who until 2008 spent his entire professional life as an employee of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) or as a parliamentary representative. He headed the SPÖ from 2000 to 2008, and served as Chancellor of Austria from January 2007 to December 2008. Since then he has pursued a career as a consultant and lecturer, and as a member of supervisory boards of Austrian companies.

Early life and education

Gusenbauer was born in Sankt Pölten in the state of Lower Austria on 8 February 1960. He was educated at a high school in Wieselburg and studied political science, philosophy and jurisprudence at the University of Vienna, where he obtained a doctorate in political science in 1987. Gusenbauer was federal leader of the SPÖ youth wing, the Socialist Youth (SJ) from 1984 to 1990; vice-president of the International Union of Socialist Youth from 1985 to 1989 and vice-president of the Socialist International in 1989. He was then made a senior research fellow in the economic policy department of the Lower Austria section of the Chamber of Labour from 1990 to 1999.

Chairman of the Social Democratic Party

In 1991, Gusenbauer was elected SPÖ chairman in Ybbs an der Donau and a member of the Lower Austria party executive following the resignation of SPÖ chairman Viktor Klima. In the same year he was elected to the Bundesrat (the upper house of the Austrian Parliament) as a deputy for Lower Austria. He was a member of the Austrian delegation to the parliamentary meeting of the Council of Europe in 1991 and was chairman of the social committee of the Council of Europe from 1995 to 1998.

In the Bundesrat, Gusenbauer was chairman of the Committee for Development Co-operation from 1996 to 1999. In 2000, he was elected leader of the SPÖ Group in the Bundesrat and also as secretary-general of the SPÖ. Under his leadership in the 2002 elections the SPÖ improved its vote and gained four seats, but failed to defeat the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) government of Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel. Gusenbauer had campaigned on a platform of more social spending and certain tax cuts.

During 2006, the SPÖ was handicapped by its involvement in the "BAWAG scandal" in which directors of the BAWAG, an Austrian bank owned by the Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB), were accused of corruption, embezzlement and illicit speculation. The scandal led in March to the resignation of ÖGB head Fritz Verzetnitsch. The SPÖ as a party was not involved in the fraud but Gusenbauer found it politically expedient to exclude ÖGB leaders from the lists of SPÖ candidates, drawing criticism from the ÖGB.

Chancellor of Austria

After the 2006 elections, the SPÖ was the largest single party but had no absolute majority of the parliamentary seats. A grand coalition between the ÖVP and the SPÖ was considered the most likely outcome. After prolonged negotiations, Gusenbauer became chancellor on 11 January 2007 at the head of an SPÖ-ÖVP coalition.

In July 2007, Gusenbauer led the Austrian delegation to the 119th session of the International Olympic Committee in Guatemala City to present the proposal for Salzburg as host of the 2014 Winter Olympics; the proposal eventually lost against Sochi, whose bid was presented by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Gusenbauer immediately drew criticism because he abandoned central promises of the SPÖ election campaign, such as those to abolish university tuition fees (it was decided by the SPÖ instead that students should do community service for 60 hours, which resulted in student protests) and to reverse the country's Eurofighter deal. This provoked public criticism even from SPÖ members. Infighting over Gusenbauer's ability to lead his party never subsided from this point onwards. On 16 June 2008, Gusenbauer was replaced as SPÖ chief by his minister of transport Werner Faymann. However, he formally remained chancellor until after the 2008 snap elections that were called in early July 2008 when the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), led by Wilhelm Molterer, left the governing coalition. His time in office was the shortest since World War II.

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