Austrians to vote on mandatory military service
VIENNA — Austrians will vote in January whether to turn the country's army of conscripts into a professional military force, parliament decided Tuesday.
The governing coalition is divided on the issue. The Social Democratic Party wants professional soldiers and the centre-right People's Party wants to keep mandatory military service for men, which currently lasts six months.
In recent weeks, the parties have used the question of Austria's defense policy to court voters ahead of next year's parliamentary election, expected to take place in September.
Opinion polls show the public is split on the military policy.
Opponents of a professional army fear that a new system would also mean the end of Austria's civilian service, which young men can opt for if they do not want to serve in the army. The civil service staffs many rescue organizations in the country.