Norbert Hofer (born March 2, 1971) is a conservative and Euroskeptic Austrian politician and a member of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ). He is most famous for his unsuccessful campaign for Austrian president in 2016, a very close race. He also serves as the Austrian minister for infrastructure and was the Third President of the National Council (one of three members).
Hofer was born on March 2, 1971, in Vorau in eastern Austria. He completed secondary engineering school in 1990 with a specialization in aeronautics. After serving his legally mandated military service, in 1990-91, Hofer served as an aeronautical engineer for Austrian Airlines from 1991-94.
Early political career
Starting in 1994, Hofer started working for the FPÖ, first as an organization officer in the Burgenland chapter of the party and eventually advancing to positions of party leadership. Hofer has held several positions of party leadership and he served as an advisor to FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache.
In 1997, Hofer was elected a council member of the City of Eisenstadt, a position he would serve in until 2007. In 2005, he became the deputy chairman of the national FPÖ, and the next year he was elected to the Austrian National Council. In October 2013, Hofer became the Third President (third most senior leader, after the Austrian People's Party and Social Democratic Party leaders). In 2016, during the postponed presidential election, Hofer, along with the other two National Council presidents, served as the joint acting president of Austria.
2016 Austrian presidential election
Hofer ran for President of Austria (a largely ceremonial role) in 2016. In the first round of the election, Hofer received 35.1 percent of the vote, which at the time was the FPÖ's best result in a national election in its history. Although Hofer lost the run-off election by less than one percentage point, Austria’s Constitutional Court ordered a re-run of the election due to irregularities in mail-in ballots. The election was eventually postponed until December 4, 2016.
Although Hofer faced a far-left Green Party candidate in the runoff who supported increased European integration and immigration, despite evidence that contrary positions were necessary, many establishment "conservatives" (who actually align more with leftists) strongly opposed Hofer and endorsed his opponent, Alexander Van der Bellen. Hofer, however, received support from disillusioned working-class voters. Additionally, far-left European leaders, who cannot tell the difference between a conservative and a Nazi, slanderously compared Hofer to a "Nazi."
Hofer lost the December 4 election, although the FPÖ vowed to fight on.
It must be noted that as the campaign progressed, Hofer moderated his positions in order to attract more votes, something which possibly actually played a part in his defeat.
Minister for Infrastructure
The FPÖ performed well in the 2017 parliamentary elections, and it achieved an even larger ideological victory. The FPÖ formed a coalition deal with the ÖVP and was able to take several key government agencies. As part of the coalition deal, Hofer became the Austrian Minister for Infrastructure.
Among other actions, in July 2018, Hofer banned the option of taking driving tests in Turkish.
While Hofer has been called "far-right" by left-leaning media outlets, he has described himself as "middle right" during the 2016 election. Hofer is a gun enthusiast and regularly carries a Glock. He strongly opposes Islam. Although Hofer is skeptical of the socialist and globalist European Union and supports "putting Austria first," he opposed a referendum to leave the power-hungry organization during the 2016 election (although he originally supported such a referendum before attempting to moderate his views). He still supported leaving the EU if Turkey joined.
During the 2016 Austrian presidential election, one of Hofer's campaign slogans was "So help me God," which was created to reflect Europe's strong Christian heritage. However, Protestant Christian leaders, who in Europe are politically and theologically radical liberal, criticized Hofer for the slogan because of his opposition to large-scale immigration—even though other biblical Christian options exist for helping refugees that promise less unnecessary upheaval.
Hofer converted from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism. First, he said this was due to the Catholic Church becoming more and more liberal (literally a "left-catholic witchhunt"). Another time he said it was due to his belief that women should be clergy—a position unsupported and even spoken against in the Bible and one that theologically conservative Protestants also denounce. His wife and children remain Roman Catholic. Hofer has four children.
Due to a 2003 paragliding accident, Hofer walks with a cane.
- Ing. Norbert Hofer - Third President of the National Council. Republic of Austria - Parliament. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
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- Troianovski, Anton (April 25, 2016). European Right Gets Boost From Austrian Freedom Party Victory. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
- Troianovski, Anton (June 1, 2016). Austrian Court Orders Rerun of Presidential Vote. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
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- Tomlinson, Chris (November 22, 2016). ‘Never Hofer’: Austrian Establishment Conservatives Back Far Left Candidate. Breitbart. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
- Tomlinson, Chris (November 18, 2016). Like Trump, Austria’s Norbert Hofer Attracting Disillusioned Working Class Voters. Breitbart. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
- Tomlinson, Chris (October 24, 2016). Former EU Head Likens Austrian Presidential Candidate Norbert Hofer to a Nazi. Breitbart. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
- Oliphant, Roland; Cseko, Balazs (December 4, 2016). Austrian far-right defiant as Freedom Party claims 'pole position' for general election: 'Our time comes'. The Telegraph. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
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- Murphy, Francois (July 16, 2017). Win or lose, Austrian far right's views have entered government. Reuters. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
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- Multiple references:
- Korolyov, Alexei (December 21, 2017). Austria’s far right takes power with little fanfare in altered political climate. The Washington Times. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- Atkins, Ralph; Khan, Mehreen (December 17, 2017). Far-right Freedom party enters Austrian government. Financial Times. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- 'Nothing to fear' as Austrian far-right enters government. The Local. December 16, 2017. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- Kurz's Austrian conservatives bring far right into government. CNBC (from Reuters). December 16, 2017. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- Tomlinson, Chris (December 16, 2017). Austrian Populists Enter Government For First Time Since 2005, Taking Several Key Ministries. Breitbart News. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- Factbox: Key figures in Austria's new coalition government. Reuters. December 16, 2017. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- Oltermann, Philip (December 18, 2017). Muted protests in Vienna as far-right ministers enter Austria's government. The Guardian. Retrieved January 18, 2018.
- Organisation Chart. Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
- Tomlinson, Chris (July 24, 2018). Austria Bans ‘Unreasonable’ Turkish-Language Driving Tests. Breitbart News. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
- ‘I’m middle right, not far-right & I don’t like extremes’ – Austria’s frontrunner Hofer to RT. RT. December 2, 2016. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
- Austria Protestant leaders slam Hofer over 'God' slogan. BBC. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
- Zaimov, Stoyan (October 25, 2016). Church Leaders Lash Out at Austrian Politician for Invoking 'God' in Campaign Speech. The Christian Post. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
- Profile at parlament.gv.at