VIENNA, January 20 (RIA Novosti) – Austria holds a national referendum on Sunday to decide on whether to scrap conscription and move to a professional army or to keep the military draft and alternative civilian service.
At present, all Austrian men fit for service must spend six month in the military or undertake nine months of civilian service as an alternative.
A fierce political battle over the issue has been raging for the past two years, with the opposing camps divided between left and right.
The center-left Social Democrats (SPO) are lobbying for a professional army while the conservative People's Party (OVP) is defending the draft option.
The outcome of the referendum is hard to predict as various public opinion polls have given only a slight edge to the defenders of the draft.
Austria, a neutral state, is one of the six EU countries that still maintain a military draft. Seventeen countries in Europe have abolished or suspended conscription since the end of the Cold War.
The Austrian military currently has about 21,000 personnel on active duty and 24,000 in reserves, according to the defense ministry.
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