Austria’s federal system is determined by an apparent contrast between formal and real constitution having its roots in foundational defects shaping the system to the present day. As for the formal dimension, Austria has a rather uneven balance with regard to powersharing. No wonder that, given the structural bias between central state and substates, informal forces are at work in order to make up for the shortcomings of the federal architecture. In this context, sub-national constitutionalism at first sight appears to be marginal. Astoundingly, though, in recent time a lot of constitutional changes and amendments, quite possibly paving the way for a sustainable redesign of the federation as a whole have taken place.
The article starts with a historical outline of the Austrian federation’s origins. In chapter 2, the interplay of formal and informal rules and practices is discussed. Chapter 3 deals with scope, contents and dynamics of sub-national constitutionalism under the given framework. The article concludes with assessing the efficacy of subconstitutional politics in relation to the capacities of the federal constitution.