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Jörg Haider (1950 – 2008)

FPÖ Federal Party Chairman from 1986 to 2000

Governor of Carinthia from 1989 to 1991 and from 1999 to 2008


Jörg Haider shaped an era of FPÖ history, which not only transformed that small party of notables into a people’s party, but also rocked the system of party cronyism which the SPÖ-ÖVP had established in the Republic of Austria.

Short biography

Jörg Haider was born in Bad Goisern, Upper Austria, on 26 January 1950 and died in a car accident on 11 October 2008 at Limbichl, near Klagenfurt, Carinthia.

Haider grew up in Bad Goisern and graduated from high school in Bad Ischl. Thereafter, he completed a one-year period of voluntary military service in the Austrian Armed Forces, studied law in Vienna and graduated in 1973 with a doctorate. In 1969 he joined the student fraternity Silvania in Vienna.

Jörg Haider started his political career as chairman of the Ring of Freedom Party Students. In 1976, Haider became provincial party secretary of the Carinthian Freedom Party and in 1979 entered the National Council. During the SPO-FPÖ coalition of 1983 to 1986, in which the Freedom Party’s Norbert Steger was Vice-Chancellor, Haider became provincial party chairman of the FPÖ Carinthia (1983) and was able to celebrate a significant success at 1984 Carinthian provincial parliamentary elections.

The tensions within the FPÖ, which arose in the wake of the formation of the SPÖ-FPÖ coalition, ultimately led to Haider being elected FPÖ federal party leader at the 1986 party conference in Innsbruck and subsequently ushering in a completely new direction for the FPÖ.

With Haider as its leading figure, the FPÖ was able to go from electoral success to electoral success in its fight against SPÖ-ÖVP cronyism. Prior to the Haider era the FPÖ’s average support in the electorate stood at around five percent, but from 1986, that changed abruptly. One reason for this was the fact that a charismatic personality like Haider had become politically active at a time when all of Europe was undergoing radical change (e.g. the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Iron Curtain).

1989 was the first occasion on which Haider was able to secure the office of Governor of Carinthia. After being voted out of office by the provincial parliament in 1991, he once again focused his attention back on federal politics and re-entered the National Council. The FPÖ was able to make significant gains at each of the following elections, with its greatest success being in 1999, when Haider was re-elected governor of Carinthia and the Freedom Party then succeeded in achieving its best-ever National Council election result, winning around 27 per cent of the vote.

This brought an end to “red-blue” (SPÖ-ÖVP) rule and the formation of a “black-blue” ÖVP-FPÖ coalition. Although Haider was himself not a member of that government, he played a decisive role in shaping it. He resigned the federal party chairmanship in 2000, handing over the reins to Vice-Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer. Yet this led to growing internal party tensions, for which Haider was also responsible.

Matters came to a head in 2002 in Knittelfeld, the Styrian location of a special meeting of FPÖ delegates, which Haider had been instrumental in bringing about. Thereafter, the FPÖ’s coalition with the ÖVP collapsed and the FPÖ tumbled into a series of electoral defeats, the most profound of which was experienced at the 2004 European Parliament election, when only about five percent of voters supported the party. In 2005, tensions within the party were finally so great that Haider broke away from the FPÖ and founded his own electoral movement, the Alliance for the Future of Austria, or "BZÖ".

At Carinthia’s 2004 provincial election, Haider had great success in defending the provincial governorship, and his BZÖ was able to achieve respectable results at the 2006 and 2008 National Council elections, albeit at the cost of an overall weakening of the Third Camp. Shortly before his tragic death in an accident on 11 October 2008, there were signs of reconciliation with the FPÖ, however.

You can access the video here: Haider – Ein Volkstribun gegen den rot-schwarzen Proporz

Main political positions

1983–1998      Provincial Party Chairman, FPÖ Carinthia

1986–2000      FPÖ Federal Party Chairman

1986–1989      Chairman of the FPÖ Parliamentary Party in the National Council

1989–1991      Governor of Carinthia

1992–1999      Chairman of the FPÖ Parliamentary Party in the National Council

1999–2008      Governor of Carinthia

Publications by Jörg Haider (selection)

  • Friede durch Sicherheit. Freiheitliches Bildungswerk, Vienna 1992
  • Europa der Regionen. Leopold Stocker Verlag, Graz 1993 (Co-authors: Umberto Bossi and Joze Pucnik)
  • Die Freiheit, die ich meine. Ullstein Verlag, Frankfurt/Main / Berlin 1993
  • Befreite Zukunft jenseits von links und rechts: Menschliche Alternativen für eine Brücke ins neue Jahrtausend (Konzepte für Österreich). Ibera & Molden, 1997


Television debate between Franz Vranitzky (SPÖ) and Jörg Haider (FPÖ), ORF 21.9.1994:

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