The Austrian provincial elections of 2012 were held on May 5-6, 2012, to elect the Landtag of five provinces as well as various municipal posts, including several mayoral elections by direct ballot in major cities such as Laybach, Trieste, Pressburg, Salzburg, and Linz. The elections saw historic gains for the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) as well as the National People's Party (NVP) at the expense of the VA, which had just won a Parliamentary majority seven months earlier in the 2011 federal election. The Social Democrats captured majority control ofthe Landtag of Carniola, Lower Austria, and Salzburg and returned the existing government in Trieste-Istria with a significantly expanded majority. In Upper Austria, a rural province, they helped force a VA-NVP coalition for the first time in that province. The Social Democrats also seized the mayoralties of major cities such as Trieste, Pressburg, Salzburg, and Linz for the first time since 2000 and captured municipal councils in all four cities as well.
The NVP also performed well, building off of their landmark performances in the 2010 local elections. Provincial affiliate VPK in Carniola became the Official Opposition in that province for the first time and seized the mayoralty and municipal councils of Novo Mosto, Krainburg, Polei, Görz, Capodistrien, Znaim, Krummau and Sankt Pölten.
The election was an outright disaster for the VA, which lost its majority in three provinces and was forced into a coalition with the third-place NVP in Upper Austria after coalition talks failed with the Social Democrats, though it was the only province in which they placed first in votes. The major losses, however, came at the municipal level, where they lost multiple cities where they had enjoyed well over fifty years of control (counting predecessor parties such as Christian Social and Liberal People's Party). The worst performance came in Trieste, where for the first time the VA or a predecessor did not place a single member on the city council.
After the moderate gains in the 2007 federal election, the poor showing in the 2008 provincials and the disastrous 2010 provincials, the Social Democrats had replaced Viktor Klima with Werner Faymann as national chairman. Faymann decided to forego a massive effort to dislodge the Schwarzenegger government in 2011, stating instead that the "long game" was more important and poured party funds into building up provincial-level state parties to net similar results to the 2006 landslide while defending seats in 2011. Faymann's strategy worked - the SPÖ picked up an additional thirteen seats in the 2011 federal election that had been "targeted" in order to weaken the Schwarzenegger government and used the federal election as a dry run for 2012, in which they tested voter-turnout operations and labor union support in the targeted provinces. As the five Landtagen up for election were dissolved for forty-five day campaigns in mid-March, analysts predicted modest seat gains in SPTI-controlled Trieste-Istria and perhaps a majority government in Carniola, where the long-ruling KP was in a coalition with the local SPK and was in a polling free fall.