Norbert Hofer

Norbert Gerwald Hofer (German pronunciation: [ˈnɔɐ̯bɐt ˈhoːfɐ]; born 2 March 1971) is an Austrian politician serving as the leader of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) since September 2019. Prior to that, he was Third President of the National Council from 2013 to 2017, his party's candidate in the 2016 Austrian presidential election and Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology in the Kurz government from 2017 until 2019.

Norbert Hofer
Hofer in 2019
Chairman of the Freedom Party
Assumed office
14 September 2019
Preceded byHeinz-Christian Strache
Minister of Transport
In office
18 December 2017  22 May 2019
ChancellorSebastian Kurz
Preceded byJörg Leichtfried
Succeeded byValerie Hackl
Third President of the National Council
In office
29 October 2013  18 December 2017
PresidentBarbara Prammer
Doris Bures
Preceded byMartin Graf
Succeeded byAnneliese Kitzmüller
Member of the National Council
In office
30 October 2006  18 December 2017
Nominated byHeinz-Christian Strache
AffiliationFreedom Party
Personal details
Norbert Gerwald Hofer

(1971-03-02) 2 March 1971
Vorau, Hartberg-Fürstenfeld, Styria, Austria
Political partyFreedom Party
Spouse(s)Verena Malus
WebsiteParliament website

Early life and education

Hofer was born in Vorau, Austria, the son of a local Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) councillor and electric power station director. He was raised in a middle-class family in Pinkafeld, Burgenland.[1]

He finished secondary school at the HTBLA Eisenstadt with specialization in aeronautics.[2] From 1990 until 1991, Hofer fulfilled his military service.[2] From 1991 until 1994 he worked as an aeronautical engineer at Lauda Air Engineering.

Political career

Hofer worked his way up the ranks of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) and became a close advisor to Heinz-Christian Strache, who took over the leadership of the Freedom Party from Jörg Haider in 2005.[1]

From 1996 to 2007, Hofer was provincial party secretary of the FPÖ in Burgenland and, from 1997 to 2007, council member of the City of Eisenstadt. Since 2006 he has been deputy regional party chairman. From 2008 to 2012, Hofer served as vice president for Burgenland of the Österreichischer Zivilinvalidenverband.[2] He was energy and environmental speaker from 2006 to 2015, as well as FPÖ spokesman for the disabled in the National Council.

Hofer became Third President of Austria's National Council on 29 October 2013.[2] He succeeded Martin Graf in this function.

Austrian presidential election, 2016

On 28 January 2016, the FPÖ presented him as its candidate for the 2016 presidential elections. He won the first round of the election, held on 24 April. He placed close second in a neck-and-neck race with Alexander Van der Bellen, the former Green Party spokesman.[3]

He ran on his promise of "putting Austria first" and received the highest number of votes in the first round with 35.1 percent, putting him in a runoff.[1][4][5] 24 April vote total was the best-ever result for the Freedom Party at federal level since 1956.[1] Hofer benefited from the recent migrant crisis, where around 90,000 migrants applied for asylum in Austria, straining the country's resources and public empathy.[6] The Freedom Party had opposed the government's original "welcoming culture" and during the summer of 2015 began to lead opinion polls.[6]

Hofer campaigned to dissolve Parliament in order to call new elections.[7] During the campaign he also stated that he would refuse to approve certain laws, such as a planned free-trade agreement between the European Union and the United States, and that he may attend, along with Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, EU summits.[8]

Right-wing parties and politicians across Western Europe celebrated Hofer's first-place finish. Those parties and politicians included: Marine Le Pen of France's National Front; Frauke Petry of Alternative for Germany; Geert Wilders of the Dutch Party for Freedom; and Matteo Salvini of Italy's Lega Nord.[9]

The second round election was held on 22 May 2016, with 49.7% of votes cast for Hofer while Van der Bellen, his opponent, received 50.3%,[10] a margin of victory of only 30,863.[11] Evidence was subsequently presented to the Constitutional Court of Austria that approximately 78,000 absentee ballots were improperly counted too early, which theoretically could have influenced or altered the outcome. Consequently, on 1 July, the Court annulled the second round results and thereby precluded Van der Bellen being sworn into office, and ordered the election be re-run.[12] Incumbent president Heinz Fischer left office on 8 July, and so the three presidents of the National Council – Doris Bures (Social Democratic Party of Austria), Karlheinz Kopf (ÖVP) and Hofer – became joint acting presidents of Austria.[13]

The Court-ordered election was held on 4 December 2016, with Van der Bellen again emerging as the victor.[14] Despite predictions that election fatigue and cold temperatures would lead to a reduction in participation, voter turnout actually increased from 72.7% in May to 73.8%;[11] expectations for a similarly-close result also proved wrong, with the margin of victory for Van der Bellen increasing by approximately a factor of ten[14] as he was supported by around 53.3% of voters. Hofer conceded soon after the first exit polls were reported, posting on Facebook: "I congratulate Alexander Van der Bellen for his success and ask all Austrians to pull together and work together" and added that he "would have liked to look after Austria" and confirmed his intention to run again in 2022.[11] His campaign manager, Herbert Kickl, who is also the secretary of the Freedom party, attributed the defeat to "the establishment which pitched in once again to block, to stonewall and to prevent renewal."[11] Hofer remained as joint acting President until Van der Bellen was sworn into office,[13] which is due to occur on 26 January 2017.[15] Political scientist Farid Hafez argued that nevertheless, it was a huge success for the FPÖ and Norbert Hofer to reach 47% of the votes, while normally, the FPÖ reaches up to 30% at most at a national parliamentary election.[16]

Federal minister

The FPÖ performed well in the 2017 Austrian legislative election, and it formed a government coalition with the Austrian People's Party. Hofer was chosen to lead the Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology.[17][18]

Private career

Hofer serves on the board of directors of Eurosolar Austria,[19] has served on the boards of Mapjet AG (2010–2011) and International Sky Services AG (2011–2012) and was executive chairman of PAF private trust (2011–2012).[2]

Ideology and political positions

Most mainstream press sources describe Hofer as "far-right".[20][21] Writer Michael Toner of the centrist online news publication International Business Times referred to Hofer as a neo-fascist.[22] However, other media outlets and political analysts have referred to Hofer as the face of the more moderate wing of the FPÖ and someone who presents a less hard-line image compared to former party leader Heinz-Christian Strache.[23][24][25]

Hofer himself says that he is not a nationalist, but a patriot.[26] He has also cited former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as one of his political influences.[27][28]

In February 2015, Hofer proposed that South Tyrol, an autonomous German-speaking province administered by Italy and formerly part of Austria-Hungary, should be absorbed into Austria.[29] In 2016, Hofer stated that he would want Austria to hold a referendum on its membership of the European Union if the European Parliament were to assume more powers, or Turkey acceded to the bloc.[30]

Personal life

Hofer is in his second marriage and has four children – two daughters, Anna-Sophie and Vivien and two sons, Yanik and Jeremie.[31][32] He was raised as a Catholic but converted to Protestantism; his wife and children are Catholic.[33] His main residence is in southern Burgenland.[31]

Hofer is an honorary member of the conservative school fraternity (pennal-conservative Burschenschaft) Marko-Germania zu Pinkafeld and an honorary knight of the Ancient Order of St. George.

In August 2003 Hofer crashed a paraglider in Stubenberg and received severe spinal injuries. He engaged in six months of rehabilitation, moving from a wheelchair to the use of a cane to walk.[31]

He is a gun enthusiast and carries a Glock handgun.[1][34]

In addition to his native German, Hofer also speaks English.[35]

Election results

 Summary of the 2016 Austrian presidential election results
Candidates (party membership) First round Second round (annulled) Second round (re-run)
Votes % Votes % Votes %
Norbert Hofer (Freedom Party of Austria) 1,499,971 35.1 2,220,654 49.7 2,124,661 46.2
Alexander Van der Bellen (The Greens) 913,218 21.3 2,251,517 50.3 2,472,892 53.8
Irmgard Griss (Independent) 810,641 18.9
Rudolf Hundstorfer (Social Democratic Party of Austria) 482,790 11.3
Andreas Khol (Austrian People's Party) 475,767 11.1
Richard Lugner (Independent) 96,783 2.3
Valid votes 4,279,170 97.9 4,472,171 96.4 4,597,553 96.8
Invalid votes 92,655 2.1 164,875 3.6 151,851 3.2
Total votes 4,371,825 68.5 4,637,046 72.7 4,749,404 74.2
Eligible voters 6,382,507 6,382,507 6,399,572
Source: Bundesministerium für Inneres


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  2. Ing. Norbert Hofer – Third President of the National Council, Republic of Austria, Parliament.
  3. Austrian far-right Freedom Party's Norbert Hofer triumphs in presidential election at dated 24 April 2016
  4. Austria far right freezes out coalition in presidency race, Cypress Mail, 25 April 2016.
  5. "Österreich – Bundespräsidentenwahl 2016".
  6. Frey, Eric. Reflections on the political revolution in Austria, Politico, 25 April 2016.
  7. Hebbard, D.B. "Far-right, glock carrying presidential candidate wins first round of election in Austria",, 25 April 2016.
  8. Groendahl, Boris (26 April 2016). "Austria coalition rocked by populist party's surge". Boston Globe. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
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  10. "Left-winger van der Bellen wins Austrian presidential election". The Local. 23 May 2016. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  11. Oltermann, Philip (5 December 2016). "Austria rejects far-right candidate Norbert Hofer in presidential election". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  12. Oltermann, Philip (1 July 2016). "Austrian presidential election result overturned and must be held again". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  13. Tasch, Barbara (1 July 2016). "An Austrian court just overturned the presidential election narrowly lost by a far-right candidate". International Business Times. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  14. "Austria far-right candidate Norbert Hofer defeated in presidential poll". BBC Online. 4 December 2016. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  15. Renon, Danielle (4 December 2016). "Autriche. Van der Bellen président: un soulagement face au populisme". Courrier International (in French). Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  17. "Organisation Chart" (PDF). Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  18. Oltermann, Philip (18 December 2017). "Muted Protests in Vienna as Far-Right Ministers Enter Austria's Government". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  19. "board", Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  20. Oltermann, Philip (4 December 2016). "Austria rejects far-right candidate Norbert Hofer in presidential election". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  21. "Austria far-right candidate Norbert Hofer defeated in presidential poll". BBC News. 5 December 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  22. Davis, Laura. "From Italy to Brexit hearing: Are we witnessing the end of the EU?". International Business Times. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  23. Wolkenstein, Fabio (11 October 2016). "Norbert Hofer, the friendly face of Austria's populist right". LSE. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  24. Zappei, Julia (19 May 2019). "Norbert Hofer: the new 'friendly face' of Austria's far-right". Yahoo News. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  25. at dated 20 May 2016
  26. Borchard, Ralf (8 November 2016). "Der FPÖ-Kandidat, der kein Rechtspopulist sein will". ARD.
  27. at dated 20 May 2016
  28. Foster, Alice (3 December 2016). "Who is Norbert Hofer? The Austrian who could become the EU's first far-right head of state". Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  29. Oltermann, Philip (19 May 2016). "Norbert Hofer: is Austria's presidential hopeful a 'wolf in sheep's clothing'?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  30. "'Austria will stay in EU if Turkey stays out' – presidential candidate Hofer to RT". RT. 1 July 2016. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  31. Nobert Hofer and spaghetti bolognese on 16/12/2011, Radio Burgenland, 16 December 2011.
  32. Strenger Papa?
  33. "Austria Protestant leaders slam Hofer over 'God' slogan". BBC News. 24 October 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  34. Henley, Jon (23 May 2016). "Who are the two men who competed to be Austria's next president?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
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