Vienna, 24 October 2023: At the press conference to present the updated 2023 Democracy Index, setbacks in terms of media freedom in Austria were noted. Since the Democracy Index was first developed and presented in October 2022, there have been regressions in media freedom and a slight decline in freedom of information. Positive developments were recorded in the areas of party financing and the fight against corruption. The index contribution from wahlbeobachtung.org in the area of elections/sovereignty was also mentioned as a positive development.
This assessment refers to the Electoral Law Amendment Act 2023, in which key demands from wahlbeobachtung.org (see 2017 electoral reform proposal) were taken up and partially implemented. What should be highlighted is the now legally guaranteed mandatory accessibility of polling stations, improvements in postal voting (QR code, counting on election day) and an upgrade of the electoral advisory service through standardised compensation. The amendment promised the prospect of opening the pool of polling commission members to persons not nominated by political parties, but this has not yet been implemented in practice. Likewise, wahlbeobachtung.org‘s demand to enable non-party, civil election observation remained unfulfilled (see wahlbeobachtung.org advisory opinion on the Electoral Law Amendment Act 2023 ).
The Democracy Index has been created by seven NGOs that cover aspects of democracy including freedom of information, party finance, transparency and elections. Specifically, these are epicenter.works , Freedom of Information Forum (Forum Informationsfreiheit), Anti-Corruption Referendum (Antikorruptions-Volksbegehren), Austrian Democracy Foundation (Demokratiestiftung), Concordia Press Club , wahlbeobachtung.org (Election-Watch.EU) and My Members of Parliament (meine Abgeordneten). The Democracy Index is divided into seven pillars (sovereign, parties, legislature, executive, judiciary, media and civil society) with various chapters.