No. 468

763.11/1–251: Telegram

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


1338. Vice Chancellor Schaerf today appeared greatly concerned over constitutional situation resulting from President Renner’s death. Government obliged under constitution to take immediate steps to fill presidential vacancy. Direct popular election would require passing of enabling law by Parliament, while election through National Assembly would require constitutional amendment and unanimous AC concurrence. Parliament might have to provide simultaneously for both eventualities.

Schaerf agreed with Chancellor Figl (Legtel 1329, January 11) that election by National Assembly would be preferable, reasoning that times were too critical for direct popular elections with concommitant feature of bitter fight between coalition parties and that new candidate, compared to Renner, would be third-rate and would suffer further loss of prestige by heated election campaign. His party had always favored election of president by National Assembly.

I asked Schaerf about likelihood of Soviet concurrence in constitutional amendment. Schaerf expressed hope this matter would be discussed by Western powers with Soviet in advance and I agreed to consult with Caccia when he returns to Vienna. Schaerf said Austrian constitution, in providing for direct presidential elections, was unique in Central Europe. Communist propaganda, he remarked, had lately emphasized theme that population must not be “robbed” of right to choose president directly. Complex procedural issues presented greater problems in his opinion than designation of successor to late president. Discussions between coalition parties would start after funeral.

  1. Telegram 1329 described Figl’s concern over designating a successor to Renner. Figl was of the opinion that the two political parties were presently inclined to propose a constitutional amendment which would enable the National Assembly to elect a new president. (763.11/1–151)