Free Voters (German: 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 Bavaria state election of 2008 FW obtained 10.2% of the vote and gained their first 20 seats in the Landtag. FW may have been helped by the presence in its list of Gabriele Pauli, a former member of the Christian Social Union of Bavaria. Others suggested that the cause and effect might be the other way about. At the state election of 2013 FW repeated its success, gaining 9.0% of the votes and 19 seats.
In the 2014 European parliament elections, the Free Voters list received 1.46% of the national vote and returned a single MEP, Ulrike Müller, who sits with the ALDE Group. The federal Free Voters association joined the European Democratic Party in October 2015.
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