Free Voters (Freie Wähler, FW or FWG) is a German concept in which an association of persons participates in an election without having the status of a registered political party. Usually it is a locally organized group of voters in the form of a registered association (eV). In most cases, Free Voters are active only at the local government level, standing for city councils and for mayor. Free Voters tend to be most successful in rural areas of Southern Germany, appealing the most to conservative voters who prefer local decisions to party politics. Free Voter groups are active in all German states.
Unlike in the other German states, the Free Voters of Bavaria have also contested state elections since 1998. In the 2008 Bavaria state election FW obtained 10.2% of the vote and gained their first 20 seats in the Landtag. Some think FW did so well partly because of the presence in the list of Gabriele Pauli, a former maverick member of the Christian Social Union of Bavaria.
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