Die Freiheitlichen

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Not to be confused with Freedom Party of South Tyrol.
Die Freiheitlichen
Leader Pius Leitner
Honorary President Pius Leitner
President Walter Blaas
Secretary Simon Auer
Founded 7 December 1992
Headquarters via della Chiesa 62
Terlan (BZ)
Ideology German minority interests[1][1]
Right-wing populism[1]
Political position Right-wing
International affiliation none
European affiliation none
European Parliament group no MEPs
Chamber of Deputies
0 / 630
0 / 315
European Parliament
0 / 73
Provincial Council
6 / 35
Politics of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol
Political parties

Die Freiheitlichen (dF) is a right-wing separatist political party active in the Italian province of South Tyrol.

The party seeks to represent the German-speaking majority and Ladin-speaking minority of the province's population and to secede South Tyrol from Italy and, broadly speaking, its ideology is similar to that of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), especially under the leadership of Jörg Haider. The long-time leader and honorary president of dF is Pius Leitner. In the 2013 provincial election the party came distant second to the dominant South Tyrolean People's Party (SVP).

The party's name approximately translates to "The Liberals",[2] but possible translations include "The Freedomites",[3] which is frequently used for FPÖ's members by English media[4][5][6][7] and by the FPÖ itself,[8] and "The Libertarians".[9][10][11][12]


Foundation and early years[edit]

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 Die Freiheitlichen.[13] 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.[14]

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).[13]

Decline and resurgence[edit]

In February 1997 Waldner was shot dead by his former political ally Reiner, who had remained a leading member of dF.[15] 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.[16]

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.[17]

In the 2006 general election dF obtained 5.4%.[18] In the 2008 general election they almost doubled their share of vote to 9.4%.[19]

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.[20]

More electoral successes[edit]

In February 2012, after 18 years at the head of the party, Leitner chose to step down and promote Mair as his successor.[21][22]

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.[23][24][25]

In the 2013 general election the party won 15.9% of the vote, its best result ever.[26]

In the 2013 provincial election dF won 17.9% (another record high and +3.6% since 2008), resulting in six provincial councillors.[27]

In the 2014 European Parliament election the party ran in alliance with Lega Nord.[28] After the election, following a scandal on advance retirement payments which invested all the regional councillors,[29] the party entirely renewed its leadership by electing Walter Blaas president and appointing Simon Auer secretary.[30][31]

Popular support[edit]

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. 2014 European
6.1 - - - 2.5 - - 5.0 - 5.4 9.4 14.3 - 15.9 17.9 6.0[32]

Election results[edit]

Provincial Council[edit]

Provincial Council of South Tyrol
Election year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
1993 18,669 6.1
2 / 35
1998 7,543 2.5
1 / 35
Decrease 1
2003 15,121 5.0
2 / 35
Increase 1
2008 43,614 14.3
5 / 35
Increase 3
2013 51,504 17.9
6 / 35
Increase 1



  1. ^ a b c Wolfram Nordsieck. "Parties and Elections in Europe: The database about parliamentary elections and political parties in Europe, by Wolfram Nordsieck". Parties-and-elections.eu. Retrieved 2014-04-27. 
  2. ^ "Crisis Profiteers". German-Foreign-Policy.com. 
  3. ^ Wolfram Nordsieck. "Parties and Elections in Europe". Parties-and-elections.eu. Retrieved 2014-04-27. 
  4. ^ http://www.economist.com/search/gcs?ss=freedomites#masthead&gsc.tab=0&gsc.q=freedomites&gsc.sort=date
  5. ^ Murphy, Clare (2004-03-08). "Europe | Haider's enduring appeal". BBC News. Retrieved 2014-04-27. 
  6. ^ Jones, Nigel (2008-10-11). "From beer hall orator to controversial far Right leader: how Jorg Haider singlehandedly changed Austria's politics". Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-04-27. 
  7. ^ http://query.nytimes.com/search/sitesearch/#/freedomites+austria/
  8. ^ http://www.fpoe.at/fileadmin/Contentpool/Portal/PDFs/Parteiprogramme/Parteiprogram_eng.pdf
  9. ^ Rosie Scammell (2013-02-23). "German-speaking Italians reassess Rome ties - Al Jazeera English". M.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 2014-04-27. 
  10. ^ Walker, Bruce (2012-09-08). "In Spain and Elsewhere: Separatism Is Alive and Well". Thenewamerican.com. Retrieved 2014-04-27. 
  11. ^ Hersevoort, Tim (2012). "South Tyrol defies the crisis" (PDF). Euroviews. Danish School of Media & Journalism. p. 102. 
  12. ^ Massetti, Emanuele (October 2009), Political Strategy and Ideological Adaptation in Regionalist Parties in Western Europe: A Comparative Study of the Northern League, Plaid Cymru, the South Tyrolese People's Party and the Scottish National Party (PDF) (DPhil dissertation), University of Sussex, pp. 154, 168–169 
  13. ^ a b Pallaver, Günther (2007), "Südtirols politische Parteien 1945-2005" (PDF), 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" (PDF), La Regione Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol nel XX secolo — I: Politica e Istituzioni (in Italian): 559–598 
  14. ^ 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 (Diplom thesis) (in German), University of Innsbruck, p. 39 
  15. ^ "L' omicida e' l' ideologo degli Schuetzen" (in Italian). Corriere della Sera. 22 February 1997. 
  16. ^ Voti di lista e ripartizione dei seggi - Elezioni regionali e provinciali 1998, Autonomous Province of Bolzano (in Italian).
  17. ^ Risultati provinciali - Elezioni provinciali 2003, Autonomous Province of Bolzano (in Italian).
  18. ^ Elezioni politiche 2006 - Dati in sintesi, Autonomous Province of Bolzano (in Italian).
  19. ^ Elezioni politiche 2008, Autonomous Province of Bolzano (in Italian).
  20. ^ Elezioni Amministrative 2008, Autonomous Province of Bolzano (in Italian).
  21. ^ "Leitner lascia la guida dei Freiheitlichen dopo 18 anni" (in Italian). Alto Adige. 6 February 2012. 
  22. ^ "Ulli Mair "Obfrau" dei Freiheitlichen" (in Italian). Alto Adige. 7 February 2012. 
  23. ^ "Varare subito il libero Stato del Südtirol" (in Italian). Alto Adige. 15 March 2012. 
  24. ^ "Verfassungsentwurf für Südtiroler Freistaat: Ministerpräsident statt Landeshauptmann". Südtirol Online (in German). 14 March 2012. 
  25. ^ "Südtiroler Blaue mit Verfassung für Freistaat" (in German). ORF. 14 March 2012. 
  26. ^ Elezioni politiche e regionali del 24 e 25 febbraio 2013 - Provincia di Bolzano, Ministry of Interior (in Italian).
  27. ^ Elezioni Provinciali 2013 - Rinnovo del consiglio provinciale, Autonomous Province of Bolzano (in Italian).
  28. ^ "Costi della politica: sex toys a spese del consiglio provinciale dell'Alto Adige". Repubblica.it. 2014-03-27. Retrieved 2014-04-27. 
  29. ^ Trentino Alto Adige, pensioni e vitalizi ai consiglieri regionali da 90 milioni
  30. ^ http://altoadige.gelocal.it/bolzano/cronaca/2014/06/15/news/walter-blaas-eletto-al-vertice-dei-freiheitlichen-1.9431757?ref=search
  31. ^ http://www.goinfo.it/it/news/aria-nuova-ai-freiheitlichen.html
  32. ^ In list with Lega Nord.
  33. ^ http://altoadige.gelocal.it/bolzano/cronaca/2013/04/21/news/i-freiheitlichen-puntano-al-sesto-consigliere-1.6926101