On the 15th of September 1905 a huge socialist and working-class Franchise reform. demonstration in favour of universal suffrage took place before the parliament at Budapest. The Austrian Socialist party, encouraged by this manifestation and influenced by the revolutionary movement in Russia, resolved to press for franchise reform in Austria also. An initial demonstration, resulting in some bloodshed, was organized in Vienna at the beginning of November. At Prague, Graz and other towns, demonstrations and collisions with the police were frequent. The premier, Baron Gautsch, who had previously discountenanced universal suffrage while admitting the desirability of a restricted reform, then changed attitude and permitted an enormous Socialist demonstration, in support of universal suffrage, to take place (November 28) in the Vienna Ringstrasse. Traffic was suspended for five hours while an orderly procession of workmen, ten abreast, marched silently along the Ringstrasse past the houses of parliament. The demonstration made a deep impression upon public opinion. On the same day the premier promised to introduce by February a large measure of franchise reform so framed as to protect racial minorities from being overwhelmed at the polls by majorities of other races.

On the 23rd of February 1906 he indeed brought in a series of franchise reform measures. Their main principles were the abolition of the curia or electoral class system and the establishment of the franchise on the basis of universal suffrage; and the division of Austria electorally into racial compartments within which each race would be assured against molestation from other races. The Gautsch redistribution bill proposed to increase the number of constituencies from 425 to 455, to allot a fixed number of constituencies to each province and, within each province, to each race according to its numbers and tax-paying capacity. The reform bill proper proposed to enfranchise every male citizen above 24 years of age with one year's residential qualification.

At first the chances of the adoption of such a measure seemed small. It was warmly supported from outside by the Social Democrats, who held only 11 seats in the House; inside, the Christian Socialists or Lueger party were favourable on the whole as they hoped to gain seats at the expense of the German Progressives and German Populists and to extend their own organization throughout the empire. The Young Czechs, too, were favourable, while the Poles reserved their attitude. Hostile in principle and by instinct, they waited to ascertain the mind of the emperor, before actively opposing the reform. With the exception of the German Populists who felt that a German "Liberal" party could not well oppose an extension of popular rights, all the German Liberals were antagonistic, some bitterly, to the measure. The Constitutional Landed Proprietors who had played so large a part in Austrian politics since the 'sixties, and had for a generation held the leadership of the German element in parliament and in the country, saw themselves doomed and the leadership of the Germans given to the Christian Socialists. None of the representatives of the curia system fought so tenaciously for their privileges as did the German nominees of the curia of large landed proprietors. Their opposition proved unavailing.

The emperor frowned repeatedly upon their efforts.

Baron Gautsch fell in April over a difference with the Poles, and Baron Beck premier. his successor, Prince Konrad zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, who had taken over the reform bills, resigned also, six weeks later, as a protest against the action of the crown in consenting to the enactment of a customs tariff in Hungary distinct from, though identical with, the joint Austro-Hungarian tariff comprised in the Széll-Körber compact and enacted as a joint tariff by the Reichsrath. A new cabinet was formed (June 2) by Baron von Beck, permanent under secretary of state in the ministry for agriculture, an official of considerable ability who had first acquired prominence as an instructor of the heir apparent, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, in constitutional and administrative law. By dint of skilful negotiation with the various parties and races, and steadily supported by the emperor who, on one occasion, summoned the recalcitrant party leaders to the Hofburg ad audiendum verbum and told them the reform "must be accomplished," Baron Beck succeeded, in October 1906, in attaining a final agreement, and on the 1st of December in securing the adoption of the reform.

During the negotiations the number of constituencies was raised to 516, divided, according to provinces, as follows: -

Bohemia

130

previously

110

Galicia

106

"

78

Lower Austria

64

"

46

Moravia

49

"

43

Styria

30

"

27

Tirol

25

"

21

Upper Austria

22

"

20

Austrian Silesia

15

"

12

Bukovina

14

"

11

Carniola

12

"

11

Dalmatia

11

"

11

Carinthia

10

"

10

Salzburg

7

"

7

Istria

6

"

5

Görz and Gradisca

6

"

5

Trieste and territory

5

"

5

Vorarlberg

4

"

4

In the allotment of the constituencies to the various races their tax-paying capacity was taken into consideration. In mixed districts separate constituencies and registers were established for the electors of each race, who could only vote on their own register for a candidate of their own race. Thus Germans were obliged to vote for Germans and Czechs for Czechs; and, though there might be victories of Clerical over Liberal Germans or of Czech Radicals over Young Czechs, there could be no victories of Czechs over Germans, Poles over Ruthenes, or Slovenes over Italians. The constituencies were divided according to race as follows: -

Germans of all parties

233

previously

205

Czechs of all parties

108

"

81

Poles

80

"

71

Southern Slavs (Slovenes, Croats, Serbs)

37

"

27

Ruthenes

34

"

11

Italians

19

"

18

Rumanians

5

"

5

These allotments were slightly modified at the polls by the victory of some Social Democratic candidates not susceptible of strict racial classification. The chief feature of the allotment was, however, the formal overthrow of the fiction that Austria is preponderatingly a German country and not a country preponderatingly Slav with a German dynasty and a German façade. The German constituencies, though allotted in a proportion unduly favourable, left the Germans, with 233 seats, in a permanent minority as compared with the 259 Slav seats. Even with the addition of the "Latin" (Rumanian and Italian) seats the "German-Latin block" amounted only to 257. This "block" no longer exists in practice, as the Italians now tend to co-operate rather with the Slavs than with the Germans. The greatest gainers by the redistribution were the Ruthenes, whose representation was trebled, though it is still far from being proportioned to their numbers. This and other anomalies will doubtless be corrected in future revisions of the allotment, although the German parties, foreseeing that any revision must work out to their disadvantage, stipulated that a two-thirds majority should be necessary for any alteration of the law.