Austria rejects abolishing conscription
By Georg Mader
Austria has voted to retain compulsory military service, following a referendum on 20 January.
In total, Austrians voted 59.8% against 40.2% in favour of conscription and against professionalising the 55,000-strong Austrian Armed Forces (Bundesheer), according to official initial results from Vienna's Ministry of the Interior.
Turnout in the referendum was slightly more than 50% of the 6.4 million election-qualified voters, dispelling fears that participation may be as low as 30% in the country's first ever nationwide referendum on security and military matters.
The result is seen as painful for Defence Minister Norbert Darabos, who had initiated the attempt to introduce a professional army in a sudden reverse turn on his party's historical position prior to regional elections in 2010. Local critics are understood to have demanded his resignation, although he is believed to retain the backing of his party.
Austrian officials and political analysts predict that following defeat in the referendum Austria's coalition government may choose to forget other attempts at military reform, with national elections expected within the next eight months. Austria spends a low 0.6% of its gross domestic product on defence, which is further considered to effect or hamper any true reform of the military system.199 of 423 words
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