No. 477

763.00/2–251: Telegram

The United States High Commissioner for Austria ( Donnelly) to the Secretary of State


1648. Although no objection was raised in the Legal Directorate at today’s Executive Committee Meeting1 the Soviet Deputy Commissioner made the following statement regarding the Presidential election law and the accompanying legislative declaration establishing its date as 20 May:

“The Soviet element considers that the reference to the constitution of 1929, the text of the presidential election law adopted by the Austrian Government, has no legal basis, since the constitution of Austria of 1929 was not recognized by the Allied agencies and has [Page 1023] no legal force. The Austrian Government, in spite of the decision of the Allied Council of 25 March 1946, up to the present moment has not submitted a new text of the Austrian constitution based on democratic principles for the consideration of the Allied agencies…2 the election of the president, similar to the election of 1945, also finds its justification in the practice which previously existed in Austria. Therefore, the Soviet element deems it necessary to return the election law to the Austrian Government for replacement by a special constitutional law.”

In reply to the US Deputy Commissioner’s question, the Soviet representative declared that he attached the greatest importance to the election of a federal president as was demonstrated by insistance on establishing a legal and constitutional basis for the election. The president was more than a Party representative—he was the head of the state. Since the Soviet element considered that no Austrian constitution existed, it would be necessary to enact a special constitutional election law. He contended that the AC had rejected the 1929 constitution because it “led to the victory of fascism in Austria.”

The US Deputy Commissioner, supported by the British and French, affirmed his support of the laws under consideration as well as the validity of the existing constitution. He described the Soviet attitude as an unwarranted attempt to interfere in the democratic processes of the Austrian Government. He pointed to the absence of logic in the Soviet contention that Austria was without a constitution inasmuch as the Soviets had often participated in the approval of laws modifying the 1929 constitution. He cited the AC decision of 27 May 1949, affirming past decisions, as proof of the integrity of the 1945 approval of the present constitution. In conclusion, he stated that by persistence their attitude the Soviet element threatened both the structure of the AC and the Austrian Government. Consequently, he found it necessary to submit the matter to the AC.

The 1929 constitution (an amended version of the 1920 constitution) was approved by the AC on 30 November 1945, after having been placed in effect by the Soviets following their entry into Austria in April 1945, but on 30 March 1946, the AC instructed the Austrian Government to submit a new draft by 1 July 1946. Realizing the practically insurmountable task of writing a constitution acceptable to all four occupying powers, as well as to themselves, the Austrian Government has never complied with this decision. Nevertheless, contrary to the Soviet remarks, this deficiency does not detract from the validity of the 1929 constitution.

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The purpose of the Soviet rejection of the election law remains obscure, since it becomes effective on 17 February under the 31-day rule, but the intent may simply be to cast a shadow of doubt over the election results for future purposes.

It is interesting to note that, while the Soviets have long held the Austrian Government delinquent in submission of a new constitution, this is the first time they have condemned the 1929 version as “having no legal basis” and “without recognition by the Soviet element”. Needless to state, adoption of the Soviet proposal would result in a law subject to their veto.

  1. The official minutes of the 180th meeting of the Executive Committee of the Allied Commission for Austria are in ALCO records, lot 62F9, box 116.
  2. Ellipsis in the source text.