|Founded||7 December 1992|
|Headquarters||via della Chiesa 62
|European Parliament group||no MEPs|
|Chamber of Deputies|
|Politics of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol
Die Freiheitlichen (dF, possible translations: "The Freedomites" or "The Libertarians") is a right-wing populist and separatist political party active in the Italian province of South Tyrol. It seeks to represent the German-speaking majority of the province's population and to secede South Tyrol from Italy.
The long-time leader of dF is Pius Leitner, who stepped down from party president in February 2012 and was replaced by Ulli Mair. The party's ideology is similar to that of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), especially under the leadership of Jörg Haider, who later founded the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ).
Foundation and early years
In 1992, a group of young right-wingers led by the so-called "gang of four", including Christian Waldner, former leader of the Junge Generation (the youth section of the South Tyrolean People's Party, SVP), Peter Paul Reiner, Pius Leitner and Stephan Gutweniger, left SVP. They were soon joined by disgruntled former members of the Freedom Party of South Tyrol (FPS), who were marginalized after the merger in the Union for South Tyrol (UfS).
They launched the new party on 7 December 1992. In doing this, they were strongly encouraged by Jörg Haider, at the time leader of the Freedom Party of Austria, which is colloquially known as The Freedomites. Gerold Meraner, former leader of FPS who had been a founding member of UfS, considered the new party as the legitimate heir of his FPS.
Under the leadership of Waldner, the party won 6.1% of the vote in the 1993 provincial election and got two provincial councillors elected, Waldner and Leitner. Soon after the election, there were clashes over the party political line between Waldner, who espoused more nationalist attitudes, and Leitner, who was the leader of the internal liberal faction. This finally led Waldner to resign in 1994 and to start his own short-lived party, "The Liberals" (renamed "Alliance 98" in 1996).
Decline and resurgence
In February 1997 Waldner was shot dead by his former political ally Reiner, who had remained a leading member of dF. This dramatic event was a shock for the party and led it into a decline which seemed irreversible. In the 1998 provincial election the party's share of vote was only 2.5% and Leitner alone was elected in the Provincial Council.
After that, the party saw a resurgence in 2003, when it jumped to 5.0% in the provincial election and managed to elect two provincial councillors again: Leitner and Ulli Mair, a young woman who had been party secretary since 2001.
In the subsequent provincial election, dF became the second-largest party in the Province with the 14.3% of the vote (a net gain of 9.3%) and had five provincial councillors elected (up from the previous two). For the first time in history the two largest political forces of South Tyrol were German-speaking parties.
Towards the Freistaat?
In March 2012, in the midst of the European sovereign-debt crisis and recession in Italy, the party officially turned to separatism, proposing the creation of a South Tyrolean independent and sovereign Freistaat (free state) through a referendum, which would need the approval also of the Italian-speaking minority.
The electoral results of the party in the Province of Bolzano since 1992 are shown in the table below.
|1993 provinc.||1994 general||1994 European||1996 general||1998 provinc.||1999 European||2001 general||2003 provinc.||2004 European||2006 general||2008 general||2008 provinc.||2009 European||2013 general||2013 provinc.|
- President: Christian Waldner (1992–1994), Pius Leitner (1994–2012), Ulli Mair (2012–present)
- Secretary: Pius Leitner (1992–1994), Sigmar Stocker (1995–2001), Ulli Mair (2001–2012), Michael Demanega (2012–present)
- Parties and Elections in Europe: The database about parliamentary elections and political parties in Europe, by Wolfram Nordsieck
- Pallaver, Günther (2007), "Südtirols politische Parteien 1945-2005", Die Region Trentino-Südtirol im 20. Jahrhundert — 1: Politik und Institutionen (in German): 589–628
or Pallaver, Günther (2007), "I partiti politici in Alto Adige dal 1945 al 2005", La Regione Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol nel XX secolo — I: Politica e Istituzioni (in Italian)
- Angerer, Oswald (2000), Die Freiheitlichen Südtirols: Entstehung, Programm, Organisationsstruktur, Akzeptanz; unter besonderer Berücksichtigung ihrer Zusammenarbeit mit der Freiheitlichen Partei Österreichs und ihres Standpunktes in der Südtirol-Frage (thesis) (in German), University of Innsbruck, p. 39
- "L' omicida e' l' ideologo degli Schuetzen" (in Italian). Corriere della Sera. 22 February 1997.
- Voti di lista e ripartizione dei seggi - Elezioni regionali e provinciali 1998, Autonomous Province of Bolzano (in Italian).
- Risultati provinciali - Elezioni provinciali 2003, Autonomous Province of Bolzano (in Italian).
- Elezioni politiche 2006 - Dati in sintesi, Autonomous Province of Bolzano (in Italian).
- Elezioni politiche 2008, Autonomous Province of Bolzano (in Italian).
- Elezioni Amministrative 2008, Autonomous Province of Bolzano (in Italian).
- "Leitner lascia la guida dei Freiheitlichen dopo 18 anni" (in Italian). Alto Adige. 6 February 2012.
- "Ulli Mair «Obfrau» dei Freiheitlichen" (in Italian). Alto Adige. 7 February 2012.
- "«Varare subito il libero Stato del Südtirol»" (in Italian). Alto Adige. 15 March 2012.
- "Verfassungsentwurf für Südtiroler Freistaat: Ministerpräsident statt Landeshauptmann". Südtirol Online (in German). 14 March 2012.
- "Südtiroler Blaue mit Verfassung für Freistaat" (in German). ORF. 14 March 2012.
- Elezioni politiche e regionali del 24 e 25 febbraio 2013 - Provincia di Bolzano, Ministry of Interior (in Italian).
- Elezioni Provinciali 2013 - Rinnovo del consiglio provinciale, Autonomous Province of Bolzano (in Italian).