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An independent or nonpartisan politician is a politician not affiliated with any political party. There are numerous reasons why someone may stand for office as an independent.
- Independents may support policies which are different from those of the major political parties.
- Independents may support a party's platform, but choose to stand as an independent because they don't feel the party adequately follows their platform.
- In some parts of the world, electors may have a tradition of electing independents, so standing for a political party is a disadvantage.
- In some countries (such as Russia), a political party can only be registered if it has many members in more than one region, but in certain regions only a minority of electors support the major parties.
- In some countries (such as Kuwait), political parties are illegal and all candidates thus stand as independents.
- In some countries where politics are otherwise traditionally partisan, such as the United States, subnational bodies and offices such as the Nebraska Legislature and various directly-elected judicial and executive positions are nonpartisan and require politicians to abstain from running for office as part of a political party, even if they may be a member of one.
- In some countries where politics is otherwise traditionally partisan (such as Mongolia), the incumbent President must always be an independent and cannot run for reelection as a member of a political party.
Some independent politicians may be associated with a political party, perhaps as former members of it, or else have views that align with it, but choose not to stand in its name, or are unable to do so because the party in question has selected another candidate. Others may belong to or support a political party at the national level but believe they should not formally represent it (and thus be subject to its policies) at another level.
In running for public office, independents sometimes choose to form a party or alliance with other independents, and may formally register their party or alliance. Even where the word "independent" is used, such alliances have much in common with a political party, especially if there is an organization which needs to approve the "independent" candidates.
Independents are a recurrent feature of the federal Parliament of Australia, and they are more commonly elected to state parliaments. There have been up to five independents in every federal parliament since 1990, and independents have won twenty-eight times during national elections in that time. A large proportion of independents are former members of one of Australia's four main parties, the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party of Australia, the Australian Greens, or the National Party of Australia. In 2013 a political party named the Australian Independents was registered with the Australian Electoral Commission.
At the dissolution of parliament before the 2019 federal election, four independents sat in the Australian House of Representatives: Andrew Wilkie (Member for Denison), Cathy McGowan (Member for Indi), Kerryn Phelps (Member for Wentworth), and Julia Banks (Member for Chisholm). Of these, Wilkie had previously been a Greens candidate, McGowan had been a Liberal staffer, and Banks was elected as a Liberal MP before resigning from the party in November 2018. At the 2019 election, Wilkie was re-elected as the Member for Clark, while McGowan retired, and both Phelps and Banks lost their seats. However, two new independents entered parliament: Zali Steggall (Member for Warringah) and Helen Haines (Member for Indi).
Independent Senators are quite rare. In modern politics, Independent Brian Harradine served from 1975 to 2005 with considerable influence at times. Nick Xenophon has been the only elected independent Senator since his election to the Senate at the 2007 federal election. Xenophon was re-elected for another six-year term at the 2013 federal election. DLP Senator John Madigan became an independent Senator in September 2014, while PUP Senators Jacqui Lambie and Glenn Lazarus became Independent Senators in November 2014 and March 2015.
Independent politicians are not allowed to run for office in Brazil. The Constitution of 1988, in Article 14, §3rd, item V, says that "Are conditions for eligibility: V - party affiliation." However, the Proposal Amendment to the Constitution (PEC) no. 6/2015, authored by independent senator José Reguffe, would allow the independent candidacy of individuals who have the support of at least 1% of the electors able to vote in the region (city, state or country, depending on the election) in which the candidate is running. Currently, members of the legislature can leave their respective parties after being elected, as in the case of senator Reguffe, who left the Democratic Labour Party (PDT) in 2016.
Independent Members of Parliament were numerous in the last decades of the 19th century but diminished as the party system solidified. It remained common, however, to have a small number of Independent Liberal or Independent Conservative MPs into the 1950s. Today, election as an independent is far more common at the municipal level. Many municipalities have no tradition of political parties.
Candidates in federal elections who are not affiliated with a party have two options: independent or no affiliation. In the former case, they appear on the ballot with "Independent" following their name; in the second case, they appear with their name only. The two options are otherwise equivalent.
Independent politicians have on occasion held considerable sway in the House of Commons of Canada in recent years, as Canada has been governed by successive minority governments with independent Members of Parliament (MPs) sometimes sharing in the balance of power. In the 2004 federal election, Chuck Cadman was elected to federal parliament as an independent MP representing the British Columbia riding of Surrey North. Independent André Arthur was elected in the Quebec riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier in the 2006 federal election, and was the only independent to win a seat in that election; he was re-elected in the 2008 federal election. MP Bill Casey, who had been expelled from the Conservative Party for voting against the 2007 budget, also ran as an independent in 2008 and retained his seat. In the 2019 federal election, MP Jody Wilson-Raybould ran as an independent candidate in the riding of Vancouver Granville after being expelled from the Liberal Party over the SNC-Lavalin affair. She was returned to Parliament with 32% of the vote.
The territorial legislatures of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are consensus governments with no political parties. All members sit as independents. There are a few independent members of the other provincial and territorial legislatures, which are similar in principle to the federal House of Commons; for example, in the 2009 British Columbia general election, independent candidate Vicki Huntington narrowly defeated incumbent Attorney General Wally Oppal in Delta South.
More than half of Hong Kong's Legislative Council is made up of independents, or members whose political groups are represented by one sole member in the legislature. They are common in functional constituencies, and are not rare among geographical constituencies.
After serving six years on his first term as President of Finland in the National Coalition Party from 2012 to 2018, Sauli Niinistö was elected for his second term in 2018 after running as an independent candidate.
In France, independent politicians are frequently categorised as sans étiquette ("without label") in municipal or district elections.
In the nineteenth-century and first half of the twentieth century, most French national politicians were independents. The first modern French political parties date from the early 1900s (foundation of Action Libérale and the Radical-Socialist Republican Party). The first legislation on political parties dates from 1911, though it was not until 1928 that parliamentarians were required to select a political party for the parliamentary register (either by formally joining a group, or by loosely working with one as an apparenté, or associate), and not until after 1945 that structured political parties came to dominate parliamentary work.
Once elected, independents tended to attach themselves to a parliamentary party. In some cases independen deputies banded together to form a technical group of their own. In 1932, for instance, there were four technical groups created: the left-of-centre Independent Left, with 12 deputies; the centre-right liberal Independents of the Left, with 26 deputies; the right-wing agrarian Independents for Economic, Social and Peasant Action, with six deputies; and the far-right monarchist Independent Group, with 12 deputies - these four technical groups thus accounted for one-tenth of deputies. In addition, the larger parliamentary parties, including the socialist SFIO, centre-left PRRRS, centre-right ARD and conservative FR all included a greater or lesser number of independents who sat with their group for parliamentary work (apparentés).
However, it is nowadays rare to have independent politicians at national level, if only because independents usually affiliate themselves to an existing political grouping. Noteworthy independents include José Bové in the 2007 presidential election. Emmanuel Macron was an independent politician as Minister, but formed his own party to stand in the 2016 presidential election.
From 2001 to 2008 "without label" was no longer used in the nomenclature of the Ministry of the Interior. Candidates and lists presenting themselves as "without label" are classified in DVG (various left), DVD (various right), DVC (various center) or AUT (other) according to their political sensitivity. Therefore, from 2008 onwards, the DIV (miscellaneous) or the LDIV code for the "miscellaneous" list has been created to group unclassifiable or categorical interests and, by default, mayors without a declared label claiming no political sensitivity, be it left, center or right. The AUT (other) grade replaces the DIV grade without changing its definition.
Joachim Gauck, President of Germany from March 2012 to March 2017 and the first Federal President without party affiliation, was to date the most prominent independent politician. In the German presidential election of 2010 he was the candidate of the Social Democrats and Greens, in 2012 the candidate of all major parties except The Left. His presidency—though his powers are limited—constitutes an exception, as Independent politicians have rarely held high office in German history, at least not since World War II. It has nevertheless happened that a presidential candidate without any chances of election by the Federal Convention was not a party member: for example, when in 1984 the Greens came up with the writer Luise Rinser.
In the Bundestag parliament nearly all deputies belong to a political party. The voting system of personalized proportional representation (since 1949) allows any individual holding the passive right to vote to stand for a direct mandate in the electoral districts—299 of the seats in parliament are distributed by districts according to a plurality voting system. Such a candidate has to present 200 signatures in favor of his candidacy, the same as a candidate of a party that had no parliamentary presentation previously. The first Bundestag election in 1949 saw three independents elected; since then, no party-independent candidate has won a seat. At state level, the situation is more or less the same: only party members have a real chance to be elected to a Landtag legislature, and state ministers without party membership are just as rare as at the federal level. However, in local elections it may occur that an independent politician is elected deputy to districts', cities' and municipalities' assemblies, as well as member of a city council or even mayor, especially in Northern Germany. In recent years, independents have formed Free Voters associations which have had success in local governments. Two such associations have managed to enter state parliaments: the Free Voters of Bavaria in 2008 and the Brandenburg United Civic Movements/Free Voters in 2019.
An independent member of parliament, who also is not a member of a voters' association, holds the status of fraktionsloser Abgeordneter, i.e. not affiliated to any parliamentary group. A representative who leaves his party (and his parliamentary group) and does not join another becomes fraktionslos. In 1989 the Bundestag MP Thomas Wüppesahl, who had left the Green Party in 1987 and was excluded from the Green parliamentary group the next year, obtained more rights as a fraktionsloser Abgeordneter, for example more talking time and representation in a subcommittee, when the Federal Constitutional Court decided partially in his favor.
After the German unification of 1871, the first Reich Chancellors (heads of government) de jure served as executive officers of the German Imperial states as non-partisans, usually recruited from the traditional bureaucratic, aristocratic and/or military elites. In the fierce political conflicts during the Weimar period after World War I, several chancellors and Reich Ministers also had no party affiliation: these chancellors were Wilhelm Cuno (1922–1923), Hans Luther (1925–1926), the former Centre politician Franz von Papen (1932), and Kurt von Schleicher (1932–1933). The last two cabinets appointed by Reich President Paul von Hindenburg, a non-partisan (though strongly Conservative) himself, were regarded as apolitical cabinets of experts with regard to the rise of the Nazi Party; many of the ministers were not party members.
Since World War II, only two ministers of (West) German cabinets have not been party members, though "on the ticket" of the major party in the coalition, the Social Democrats: Education Minister Hans Leussink (1969–1972), and Minister of Economy Werner Müller (1998–2002). Minister of Justice Klaus Kinkel only shortly after his appointment joined the Free Democrats in 1991. A special case is the former Federal Minister and Chancellor Ludwig Erhard, whose affiliation with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has not been conclusively established: although he served as Minister of Economics from 1949 to 1963 and as Federal Chancellor from 1963 to 1966, and was even elected CDU party chairman in 1966, it seems that he never signed a membership form or paid contributions. Researches by Der Stern magazine have revealed a record at the CDU party archives created only in 1968, with the faked date of entry of early March 1949.
Independent candidate contest elections on the basis of their personal appeal or to promote an ideology different from any party.
In Ireland, proportional representation, the comparative looseness of formal parties, and strong local sentiment have meant that independents have formed a significant part of the parliamentary landscape since the foundation of the state: in the early elections to Dáil Éireann (parliament), independents accounted for 7% of seats in 1922, 8.5% in 1923, 10.5% in 1927, and 9% in 1932, though with the development of relatively more structured parties their numbers declined thereafter. These were similar proportions to the number of independents elected to other interwar European democracies such as France (see above).
It was not until the 2010s that independents would see a similar electoral success, with record scores for independents surpassing the previous interwar highs.
After the Irish general election in 2016, there were 19 independent TDs (parliamentary deputies) in the Dáil (the lower house of the Irish parliament), representing 12% of the total. Two technical groups were formed by independent deputies to coordinate their activities: the Independents4Change, with four deputies, opposed the government, while the Independent Alliance formed part of the minority government's working majority. A number of other individual independents similarly supported the government, and received cabinet positions.
There are fourteen independent senators in the 25th Seanad (the upper house of the Irish parliament), representing 23% of the total. Three of these are elected by the graduates of the National University of Ireland and two from Dublin University. There are also five independent senators who were nominated by the Taoiseach and four elected by the technical panels.
The Prime Ministers Carlo Azeglio Ciampi (1993–1994), Lamberto Dini (1995–1996), Giuliano Amato (2000–2001), Mario Monti (2011–2013) and Giuseppe Conte (2018–present) were independent when they were in office. Ciampi was also the President of the Italian Republic between 1999 and 2006. President Sergio Mattarella, despite being a former member of the Christian Democracy and of the Democratic Party, was elected President in 2015 as an independent.
Independents have rarely been elected to the Dewan Rakyat and state legislative assemblies. In Malaysian elections, many independent candidates lose their election deposit because they had failed to secure at least 12.5% or one-eighth of the total votes cast. Independent Senators are quite rare.
In 2010, a group of independent MPs who were sacked from the People's Justice Party formed a political block called Konsensus Bebas. The members were Zahrain Mohamed Hashim (Bayan Baru), Wee Choo Keong (Wangsa Maju), Zulkifli Noordin (Kulim-Bandar Bharu), Tan Tee Beng (Nibong Tebal) dan Mohsin Fadzli Samsuri (Bagan Serai). It did not last beyond the 12th General Elections.
As of May 2018[update], three independent MPs were elected in GE14, but later joining Pakatan Harapan (PKR), thus causing no representation for independent MP for that time. However, as of June 2018 and December 2018, the number increased to 13 independent Members of Parliament that now currently sit in the Dewan Rakyat as of December 2018.
At the same time in December 2018, almost all member from Sabah UMNO quit the party and became independent politicians.
Jaime Heliodoro Rodríguez Calderón (born in 1957), sometimes referred to by his nickname "El Bronco", is a Mexican politician who is the current governor for the northern state of Nuevo León and holds no political party affiliation. As of June 7, 2015[update] elected Governor for Nuevo León, making history as the first independent candidate to win in the country.
Originally, there were no recognised parties in the New Zealand parliament, although loose groupings did exist informally (initially between supporters of central government versus provincial governments, and later between liberals and conservatives). The foundation of formal political parties, starting at the end of the 19th century, considerably diminished the number of unaffiliated politicians, although a smaller number of independent candidates continued to be elected up until the 1940s. Since then, however, there have been relatively few independent politicians in Parliament. No independent candidate has won or held a seat in a general election since 1943, although two independent candidates have been successful in by-elections (in all cases after having held the seats in question as partisan candidates up until that point). Other politicians have become independents in the course of a parliamentary term, but not been voted into office as such.
The last person to be directly elected to Parliament as an independent in New Zealand was Winston Peters, who won the 1993 by-election in Tauranga electorate as an independent after having previously held it a member of the National Party. By the time of the next general election, he had formed his own party (New Zealand First), and thus was no longer standing as an independent. Since that time, the only independents in Parliament have been people who quit or were expelled from their original party but retained their seats without going through a by-election. Some have gone on to found or co-found their own parties, with varying levels of success — examples include Peter Dunne, Taito Phillip Field, Gordon Copeland, Tau Henare, and Alamein Kopu. Others have joined parties which were then outside Parliament, such as Frank Grover and Tuariki Delamere.
There were two independent MPs in the 49th New Zealand Parliament; Chris Carter and Hone Harawira. Carter became an independent after his criticisms of the Labour Party's leadership resulted in his being expelled from the Labour caucus, while Harawira resigned from the Māori Party and, after a short period as an independent, also resigned as an MP in order to force the 2011 by-election when he was re-elected as representative of his new political party, Mana and retained the seat in the 2011 General Election. There were also two other parties which had only a single MP: United Future with Peter Dunne and ACT with David Seymour. Neither Dunne nor Seymour was classed as an independent — Dunne's presence in Parliament was due to personal votes in his home electorate, and Seymour's presence was as the sole elected MP of ACT because of a collapse in their support in the 2011 election. In the 50th New Zealand Parliament there was one independent MP: Brendan Horan, a former New Zealand First MP who was expelled from his party because of allegations of misappropriation of family assets.
Peter Dunne effectively became an Independent MP for a short period after his United Future political party was deregistered on 25 June 2013 by the Electoral Commission, as the party no longer had the required minimum of 500 members. The party was subsequently re-registered.
Pakistan also has independent politicians standing in elections. Pakistan's Parliament has General Elections, 2008 elected 30 Members. In the 2011 four candidates won seats in the National Assembly. In the 2013 General Election nine seats were won by independents.
Noli de Castro, the Philippines' former vice president, ran as senator in 2001 with no political party affiliation. He was a guest candidate of the opposition Pwersa ng Masa coalition but he never joined their campaign rallies. He won in the senate race with the highest votes (then) in Philippine history. In 2004, he ran as vice president as a guest candidate of the administration K-4 coalition and won with just under majority of the vote.
Starting in 2001, several senators had also resigned from their respective parties to become independents; at the start of the 15th Congress, there were more independent senators than any other single political party. However, in contesting elections, all elected independents had been members of either the administration or the opposition coalition, until in the 2007 Senate election when Gregorio Honasan (a former senator) was elected as an independent while not a being member of any coalition. Honasan was earlier elected in 1995 as an independent candidate and being adopted by the Nationalist People's Coalition-led coalition to become the first elected independent senator since Magnolia Antonino in 1967, although Antonino was a guest candidate of the Liberal Party then.
In the local level, former priest Eddie Panlilio was elected as governor of Pampanga in 2007, defeating two administration candidates. When Panlilio eventually transferred to the Liberal Party in time for the 2010 election, it was ruled that he was beaten in the 2007 election; in 2010, he was defeated.
In the 2010 House of Representatives elections, seven independents were elected, although all but two joined a political party after the elections.
In contesting elections, independent candidates, while can spend as much as those with parties can under the law, they aren't able to tap in spending from a political party that nominated them.
The Polish Sejm is elected by party-list ordination, which does not allow lone candidates to run, although since 2001 there has been a possibility to create non-partisan Voters' Electoral Committee (pol. KWW, komitet wyborczy wyborców); they are by almost any means party lists, but no officially registered party is behind them. They can be unregistered parties, e.g. Kukiz'15, or non-partisan movements, although the latter never reached the 5% threshold. National minorities candidates also form Voters' Electoral Committees (like German Minority Electoral Committee, represented in Sejm since 1991), but they do not have to reach the nationwide threshold. However, during a Sejm term many members switch parties or become independents.
The situation in the Senate is different, as the voting system allows independents to run as single candidates and some are elected in their own right. In the last parliamentary election (2015) four independents won seats in the Senate.
Three Presidents since 1990 have technically been independents. Lech Wałęsa was not an endorsed candidate of any party, but the chairman of the Solidarity and he was elected without full support of this union (Solidarity votes split between him and Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki). Aleksander Kwaśniewski was a leader of the Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland, but formally resigned from the party after he was elected, as did Lech Kaczyński, who was the first leader of Law and Justice, Bronisław Komorowski (PO) and Andrzej Duda (PiS). The resignation is required because the Constitution says that the president shall hold no other offices nor discharge any public functions. The aforementioned presidents often participated in their party's campaigns (e.g. Andrzej Duda in the Law and Justice campaign three months after his resignation from the party).
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the current president of Portugal since 6 March 2016, was elected on 24 January 2016 while being a leading member of the Social Democratic Party, but suspended his political affiliation on the day of his swearing-in.
All of Russia's Presidents have been independents. Former president Dmitry Medvedev declined an offer to join United Russia, saying that he believes the President should be an independent so that he serves the interests of the country rather than his political party.
The Swedish election system is based on parties nominating candidate MPs for their party ballots, and each party has to receive 4% or more of the national vote (or 12% in one region, which has never happened). This makes running as an independent MP impossible. Once elected, the seat is personal; MPs may resign their party membership, or be stripped of it, while retaining their Riksdag seats to become independent to become what is commonly referred to as a politisk vilde (political savage).
In the executive branch, there is no requirement for ministers to be MPs, or even have a political affiliation (though this has overwhelmingly been the case in modern times). This means that even the prime minister could technically be an independent if chosen by the Riksdag.
After the 2018 Taiwanese local elections, there is only one independent local head:
In 2019, Ko Wen-je founded the Taiwan People's Party, so there is no independent local head at the moment.
The Registration of Political Parties Act 1998 laid down the first specific rules in the United Kingdom relating to the use of the term 'independent' by election candidates. That Act was repealed with most of its contents covered by Part II of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Candidates standing for United Kingdom local elections and United Kingdom parliamentary elections, including the devolved parliaments and assemblies, can use the name of a registered political party, or the term 'Independent' (or its Welsh language equivalent annibynol) or no ballot paper description at all (this latter choice was used, for example, by David Icke at the 2008 Haltemprice and Howden by-election).
Some groups in the United Kingdom who are not affiliated to any national or regional party have registered locality-based political parties. Some English examples are the Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern, the Epsom and Ewell Residents Association, the Devizes Guardians, the Derwentside Independents, and the East Yorkshire Independents.
House of Commons
Before the twentieth century it was fairly common for independents to be elected to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, but there have been very few since 1945. S. O. Davies, a veteran Labour MP, held his Merthyr Tydfil seat in the General Election of 1970, standing as an independent, after he had been deselected by the Labour Party.
Journalist Martin Bell was elected at Tatton in the general election of 1997, having stood on an anti-corruption platform, defeating incumbent Neil Hamilton. He was the first independent to be newly elected to the Commons since 1951. He stood unsuccessfully in a different constituency in 2001.
At the 2001 General Election, Dr Richard Taylor of the Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern party was elected for the constituency of Wyre Forest. Taylor was re-elected for Wyre Forest at the 2005 General Election, becoming the only independent in recent times to have been elected for a second term.
Two independent (or local party) members of parliament were elected in the 2005 election, although both were defeated five years later. In the same election, Peter Law was elected as an independent at Blaenau Gwent. Law died on 25 April 2006: the resulting by-election elected Dai Davies of the local party Blaenau Gwent People's Voice. The by-election was unusual as it was the first time in over eighty years that an independent had held a seat previously occupied by another independent.
Only one independent was elected to the Commons in the 2010, 2015 and 2017 elections: Sylvia Hermon, the member for North Down, a Unionist who left the Ulster Unionist Party because of its links with the Conservatives.
There have also been several instances of politicians being elected to the Commons as representatives of a political party, then resigning the party's whip, or having it withdrawn. Examples in this in the 2010-2015 parliament included Mike Hancock (formerly a Liberal Democrat), Eric Joyce (formerly Labour) and Nadine Dorries, a Conservative who had the whip withdrawn for part of the parliament and thus sat as an independent during that time.
Independent candidates often stand in British parliamentary elections, often with platforms about specific local issues, but usually without success. An example from the 2001 general election was Aston Villa supporter Ian Robinson, who stood as an independent in the Sutton Coldfield constituency in protest at the way chairman Doug Ellis ran the football club. Another example an independent candidate, in the Salisbury constituency, is Arthur Uther Pendragon, a local activist and self-declared reincarnation of King Arthur.
Other independent candidates are associated with a political party and may be former members of it, but cannot stand under its label. For instance, after being expelled from the Labour Party but before the Respect Coalition was founded, British Member of Parliament (MP) George Galloway described himself as "Independent Labour".
On 23 March 2005 the Independent Network was set up to support independent candidates in the General Election. The Independent Network still supports Independent candidates in local, regional, national and European elections. It has an organic[clarification needed] set of principles which are known as the Bell Principles and are very closely related to Lord Nolan's Standards of Public Life. The Independent Network does not impose any ideology or political influence on their candidates.
In March 2009, the multi-millionaire Paul Judge established the Jury Team, an umbrella organisation dedicated to increasing the number of independent candidates standing in Britain, in both national and European elections.
Independent and undescribed candidates
Part II of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 allows individuals who wish to stand as a candidate to all parliaments and assemblies in the UK, including the House of Commons, the right to use one of three ballot paper descriptions. Those descriptions are the name of a registered political party; the word "independent" or the Welsh equivalent; or no description at all, leaving the ballot paper description box blank.
Unless a candidate stands as "independent" or as a "No Description" candidate leaving the ballot paper description box blank, their candidature must be confirmed by a signed certificate from the relevant officer from a registered political party, as set out in Section 52 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006.
House of Lords
The House of Lords includes many peers independent from political parties. Some are simply not affiliated with any grouping, whilst another, larger, grouping is given the official designation of crossbenchers. Additionally the Lords Spiritual (bishops of the Church of England) do not have party affiliations.
Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Irish Assembly
In the 2003 Scottish Parliamentary elections, three MSPs were elected as Independents: Dennis Canavan (Falkirk West), Dr Jean Turner (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) and Margo MacDonald (Lothians). In 2004 Campbell Martin (West of Scotland region) left the Scottish National Party to become an independent and in 2005 Brian Monteith (Mid Scotland and Fife) left the Conservative Party to become an independent. At the 2007 Scottish Parliamentary elections Margo MacDonald was again returned as an independent MSP and was elected as an independent for the third time four years later. She died in 2014 while still serving as member of the Parliament. As she was elected as an independent regional MSP, there could be no by-election and her seat remained vacant until the 2016 election.
Peter Law was expelled from the Labour Party after standing against an official Labour candidate in Blaenau Gwent at the 2005 UK general election and became an independent in the National Assembly and UK Parliament. In 2006 Peter Law died from a brain tumour and his wife, Trish Law campaigned and took the seat as an independent candidate at the sequent by-election and held onto the seat again in the 2007 Welsh Assembly elections.
In 2016, Nathan Gill as the then leader of UKIP Wales defected from the group to sit as an independent after a falling out with Neil Hamilton who was elected UKIP Assembly group leader. Dafydd Elis-Thomas left the Plaid Cymru group later in 2016 after multiple fallings out with Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood. Elis-Thomas said his reason for leaving Plaid Cymru was that it not serious about working with the Welsh Labour Government. Neil McEvoy was expelled from Plaid Cymru on 16 January 2018 and is now sitting as an independent AM. Nathan Gill stood down on 27 December 2017 and was replaced by Mandy Jones. Mandy Jones left the UKIP group on 9 January 2018 over a fallout over her staff.
The introduction of directly elected mayors in several parts of England has witnessed the election of independents to run councils in Stoke-on-Trent, Middlesbrough, Bedford, Hartlepool and Mansfield. The first Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, was first elected as an independent, having run against the official Labour candidate Frank Dobson. He was subsequently re-admitted to the Labour Party in December 2003 before his first re-election campaign.
Independent candidates frequently stand and are elected to local councils. There is a special Independent group of the Local Government Association to cater for them. A number of local authorities have been entirely or almost entirely composed of independent members, such as the City of London Corporation, the Isles of Scilly Council, Orkney Islands Council, Shetland Islands Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) in the Outer Hebrides.
George Washington is the only President elected as an independent to date. President Washington opposed the development of political parties, which had begun to solidify as the Federalist faction centered around Vice President John Adams and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and the Democratic-Republican faction centered around Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, fearing that partisanship would eventually destroy the country. He famously warned against "the baneful effects of the spirit of party" in his 1796 Farewell Address.
John Tyler was expelled from the Whig Party in September 1841, and effectively remained an independent for the remainder of his presidency. He later returned to the Democratic Party and briefly sought re-election in 1844 as a National Democrat, but withdrew over fear he would split the Democratic vote.
Since 1900, notable candidates running as independents for U.S. president have included liberal Republican congressman John Anderson in 1980, billionaire entrepreneur Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996, former Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in the 1996 and 2000 elections, and "Never Trump" conservative candidate Evan McMullin in 2016. Out of all independent candidates since Washington, Perot received the best performance, gaining no votes in the Electoral College but receiving 19 percent of the popular vote and at earlier points in the election season leading in polls against his opponents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. Additionally, McMullin received 21 percent of the popular vote in his home state of Utah but received little support from the remainder of the country. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders ran in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries, but ultimately did not appear on the ballot in the 2016 presidential election, though he did receive 5% of the vote as a write-in candidate in his home state of Vermont.
In 2008, Nader formed Independent Parties in New Mexico, Delaware, and elsewhere to gain ballot access in several states. This strategy has been pursued by several other candidates for federal races, including Joe Lieberman (Connecticut for Lieberman).
Illinois, Maine, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Alaska and Minnesota have elected formally independent candidates as governor: Illinois's first two governors, Shadrach Bond and Edward Coles; James B. Longley in 1974 as well as Angus King in 1994 and 1998 from Maine; Lincoln Chafee in 2010 from Rhode Island; Julius Meier in 1930 from Oregon; Sam Houston in 1859 from Texas; and Bill Walker in 2014 from Alaska. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. is sometimes mentioned as an independent governor, though this is not technically correct; he ran as an A Connecticut Party candidate (which gave him better ballot placement than an unaffiliated candidate would receive), defeating the Democratic and Republican party nominees. Another former governor who is sometimes mentioned as an independent is Jesse Ventura, who actually ran as a member of the Reform Party's Minnesota affiliate, which later disaffiliated from the party and reverted to their original name the Independence Party of Minnesota.
In 1971, State Senator Henry Howell of Virginia, a former Democrat, was elected lieutenant governor as an independent. Two years later, he campaigned for governor as an independent, but lost by 15,000 votes.
There were several unsuccessful independent gubernatorial candidates in 2006 who impacted their electoral races. In Maine, state legislator Barbara Merrill (formerly a Democrat) received 21% of the vote. In Texas, country music singer and mystery novelist Kinky Friedman received 12.43% of the vote, and State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn received 18.13%. Strayhorn and Friedman's presence in the race resulted in a splitting of the ballot four ways between themselves and the two major parties.
In 2010, Florida governor Charlie Crist left the Republican party and became Independent (He later became a Democrat.) rather than face former state house Speaker Marco Rubio in the Republican primary (Rubio won, though Crist came in ahead of Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek).
In 2014, former Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann ran as an independent candidate for the governorship of the State of Hawaii after previously campaigning in the state's Democratic primary. As a result, Democratic candidate David Ige was elected as governor with a plurality of 49%.
Congress – House of Representatives and Senate
There have been several independents elected to the United States Senate throughout history. Notable examples include David Davis of Illinois (a former Republican) in the 19th century, and Harry F. Byrd Jr. of Virginia (who had been elected to his first term as a Democrat) in the 20th century. Some officials have been elected as members of a party but became independent while in office (without being elected as such), such as Wayne Morse of Oregon. Nebraska senator George W. Norris was elected for four terms as a Republican before changing to an independent after the Republicans lost their majority in Congress in 1930. Norris won re-election as an independent in 1936, but later lost his final re-election attempt to Republican Kenneth S. Wherry in 1942. Vermont senator Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party to become an independent in 2001. Jeffords's change of party status was especially significant because it shifted the Senate composition from 50-50 between the Republicans and Democrats (with a Republican Vice President, Dick Cheney, who would presumably break all ties in favor of the Republicans), to 49 Republicans, 50 Democrats, and one Independent. Jeffords agreed to vote for Democratic control of the Senate in exchange for being appointed chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and the Democrats held control of the Senate until the Congressional elections in 2002, when the Republicans regained their majority. Jeffords retired at the end of his term in 2007. Wayne Morse after two years as an independent became a Democrat. Dean Barkley of the Independence Party of Minnesota was appointed a day before the 2002 elections to fill the senate seat of Paul Wellstone who, while running for re-election, died weeks prior. Barkley refused to caucus with either party.
Senator Bernie Sanders is the longest-serving independent member of Congress in American history. He was an independent member of the United States House of Representatives for Vermont-at-large from 1991 to 2007. Sanders later won the open Senate seat of Jim Jeffords as an independent. Joe Lieberman is a former Democrat who, like Lowell P. Weicker Jr., ran under a third party (Connecticut for Lieberman Party) in the 2006 election. Though both representatives are technically independent politicians, they often caucus with the Democrats. In 2006, Sanders and Lieberman were the only two victorious independent candidates for Congress, both caucusing with the Democrats. In 2012 Angus King was elected to the US Senate as an Independent from Maine. As of 2016[update], he has typically caucused with the Democrats.
The United States House of Representatives has also seen a handful of independent members. Examples include Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Virgil Goode of Virginia, Frazier Reams of Ohio, Victor Berger of Wisconsin, and Justin Amash of Michigan.
State and local offices
In August 2008, there were 12 independents who held offices in state legislatures. There were four state senators, one from Kentucky, one from Oregon, one from Tennessee, and one from New Mexico. The representatives came from the states of Louisiana (two), Maine (two), Vermont (two), and Virginia (two). In the 2008 general elections, Wisconsin State Assemblyman Jeffrey Wood left the Republican Party and won reelection as an independent. After the 2008 primary election, New Mexico State Senator Joseph Carraro left the Republican Party and registered as an Independent. He did not run for reelection.
In November 2005, Manny Diaz was elected Mayor of Miami, Florida as an independent. On June 19, 2007, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg switched his party affiliation from Republican to independent. Oscar Goodman, Mayor of Las Vegas, Nevada switched his affiliation to Independent from Democrat in December 2009. Dan Hollingsworth has won four consecutive elections as an Independent since 1998 for mayor of the small city of Ruston, Louisiana, the home of Louisiana Tech University. In 2017, Maine State Representative Ralph Chapman, a Democrat, changed his registration to Maine Green Independent Party, which is the Maine chapter of the Green Party of the United States, giving the Green Party a seat in Maine's State Legislature.
The Nebraska Legislature is unique in that it is the only nonpartisan state legislature. In the Legislature (which is additionally unique in that it is also the only state legislature that is unicameral), there are no formal party alignments or groups and the members are nominated in nonpartisan primary elections. Members are allowed to register with political parties but choose not to reveal their affiliation while seated, as a professional courtesy. However, the political affiliation of party-affiliated members are considered open secrets and the parties exist in the legislature on an unofficial basis. Some members, such as Ernie Chambers of Omaha, are independent of party officially, while others have not publicly disclosed their affiliation.
Notes and references
|a.||^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement. Kosovo is currently recognized as an independent state by 97 out of the 193 United Nations member states. In total, 112 UN member states recognized Kosovo at some point, of which 15 later withdrew their recognition.|
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