Federation of Independents
|Federation of Independents
Verband der Unabhängigen
|Founded||25 March 1949|
|Succeeded by||Freedom Party of Austria|
|Politics of Austria
The Federation of Independents (German: Verband der Unabhängigen, VdU) was a German national and national-liberal political party in Austria active from 1949 to 1955. It was the predecessor of the Freedom Party of Austria.
The party was officially founded on 25 March 1949 by Herbert Kraus and Viktor Reimann. Its formation had been encouraged by the Austrian Social Democratic Party, which sought to split the right-wing vote and to weaken the conservative People's Party to gain a parliamentary majority in Austria. On the next day the constituent assembly was held at Salzburg, then in the US occupation zone. Herbert Kraus was elected Chairman (Bundesobmann), while Viktor Reimann, Josef Karoly, Karl Hartleb and Karl Winkler were appointed Vice-Chairmen (Bundesobmann-Stellvertreter). Kraus was party leader until 1952.
VdU saw itself as representing the interests of former Nazi Party members, expellees from Central and Eastern Europe, returning war prisoners and other discontent portions of the Austrian population. Although close to the Austrian People's Party, the party also advocated liberal individualism, and did not concern itself much with the "Catholic question." VdU supported the abolition of laws limiting the political activities of former Nazis.
Electoral success and decline
In the 1949 election it obtained 11.7% of the vote and won 16 seats in the National Council. The Socialists' strategy of creating a split in the non-socialist vote failed, with both the Social Democrats and the People's Party losing equally to the VdU. The party drew most of its support in areas where in pre-war times the rural Landbund had been rooted  and in cities with a high percentage of former Nazis. At the 1953 election, its share of the vote fell slightly to 10.9% and 14 seats in the National Council.
Beginning soon after its foundation, the party saw the start of heavy internal strife between the more liberal approach of the founders Kraus and Reimann and the German nationalist faction centering around the former Luftwaffe General Gordon Gollob. This led to the collapse of the party, which was absorbed by the newly founded Freedom Party of Austria of Anton Reinthaller in 1956.