Independent (politician)

Independent (politician)

In politics, an independent or non-party politician is an individual not affiliated to any political party. Independents may hold a centrist viewpoint between those of major political parties, a viewpoint more extreme than any major party, or they may have a viewpoint based on issues that they do not feel that any major party addresses. Other independent politicians are associated with a political party and may be former members of it, but choose not to stand under its label. A third category of independents are those who may belong to or support a political party but believe they should not formally represent it and thus be subject to its policies. Finally, some independent candidates may form a political party for the purposes of running for public office.



Independents have rarely been elected to the federal Parliament of Australia, although they are more commonly elected to state parliaments. A large number of independents are former members of one of Australia's main parties, the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party of Australia, Australian Greens Party or the National Party of Australia.

Currently, four independents sit in the Australian House of Representatives. Andrew Wilkie from Tasmania is a former Greens candidate, while both Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor from New South Wales are both former members of the National Party. All three support the current Gillard Labor government in confidence and supply votes. Bob Katter is from Queensland and a former member of the National Party.

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 independent Senator since his election to the Senate at the 2007 federal election. With Senators elected for 6-year terms, Xenophon will be required to recontest his South Australian seat at the next Australian federal election due by 2013.


Independent politicians have held considerable sway in the Canadian House of Commons 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. Cadman had previously represented that riding on behalf of the Reform Party of Canada and Canadian Alliance, but after the Canadian Alliance merged with the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada to form the new Conservative Party of Canada in 2003, Cadman lost the nomination to represent the Conservative Party in that riding to Jasbir Singh Cheema. Cadman then stood in the subsequent election as an independent and defeated Cheema, as well as the candidates of other Canadian parties, by a significant margin.

In the spring of 2005, Cadman cast the tying vote in favour of a budget supported by the Liberal Party government of Paul Martin as well as the New Democratic Party (NDP), but opposed by the opposition Conservatives and Bloc Québécois. Two other independents also voted on that budget. Carolyn Parrish, independent MP for Mississauga—Erindale, had recently been kicked out of the Liberal Party for criticizing US president George W Bush, but nonetheless sided with the Liberals on the budget vote. David Kilgour independent MP for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, had previously quit the Liberal caucus and voted with the opposition parties against the budget. The tie vote required the Speaker of the House Peter Milliken to cast the deciding vote, and he did so in favor of the budget, allowing the government to survive.

Cadman was terminally ill with cancer at the time he cast his crucial vote, and he died later in 2005. In the 2006 federal election, his riding was won by NDP candidate Penny Priddy. Neither Parrish nor Kilgour (nor Pat O'Brien, MP for London—Fanshawe, who quit the Liberal Party to sit as an independent after the 2005 budget vote) stood for re-election in 2006.

Another independent candidate, André Arthur, was elected in the Quebec riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier in 2006, and was the only independent to win a seat in that election. He was re-elected in the October 14, 2008 federal election. Former Progressive Conservative and Conservative MP Bill Casey, who was expelled from the Conservative Party for voting against the 2007 Federal Budget, also ran as an independent in the 2008 election, easily retaining his seat.

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.

The territorial legislatures of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are consensus governments with no political parties, so that all members sit as independents. There are a few independent members of the other subnational legislatures, which are similar in principle to the federal House of Commons; for example, in the 2009 election in British Columbia, independent candidate Vicki Huntington narrowly defeated incumbent Attorney General Wally Oppal as MLA for Delta South.

True independents should not be confused with members of parties without official party status in a legislature. Most legislatures provide that a party must hold a certain number of seats to enjoy certain advantages in staffing, budget, ability to ask questions in Question Period, and the like. Although members whose parties do not hold this status may have no more privileges than independent members, they remain representatives of political parties.

Also, members who are expelled from or choose to leave their party caucus may sit as "Independent" with some designation, e.g. "Independent Liberal" or "Independent Conservative," to indicate their affiliation to that party even if it is not officially recognized.

Election as an independent is far more common at the municipal level. Many municipalities have no tradition of political parties.

Hong Kong

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. All of them are nevertheless belonging either to the 'Pro-democracy' camp or the 'Pro-Beijing' camp.


The current president of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, is independent. The 9th prime minister of Iceland, Björn Þórðarson, was also independent.


Independents are often criticized in India as being dummy candidates put forward by political parties to get around the spending ceiling imposed by the Election Commission. Independent candidates are sometimes also rebel candidates from a party contesting the election, who were unable to secure their party's nomination.

Dummy candidates running as independents who bear the same or a similar name to a party candidate have also been put forward by political parties to confuse voters. For example, in the 2009 general election an independent named Bhakti Adhikary contested the Tamluk constituency, allegedly to confuse voters; the eventually elected contestant was Suvendu Adhikary of the All India Trinamool Congress.[citation needed]


After the Irish general election in 2011, there were 16 independent TDs (Members of Parliament) in the Dáil (the lower house of the Irish parliament), representing 10% of the total, excluding the three members of the United Left Alliance are also members of the Dáil Technical Group of Independent TDs[1]

There are twelve independent senators in the 24th Seanad (the upper house of the Irish parliament), representing 20% 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 seven senators who are nominated by the Taoiseach who have also formed an independent technical grouping.


Kosovo[a] president Atifete Jahjaga was elected the first female and Independent President not just for Kosovo but for the whole Balkans


There are four independent Members of Parliament in the Dewan Rakyat as of March 2010. In the 2008 general election, Ibrahim Ali, Zahrain Mohamed Hashim, Tan Tee Beng and Mohsin Fadzli Samsuri were each elected on the tickets of parties in the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition. Each since left their parties to sit as independents.

New Zealand

Originally, all members of the New Zealand parliament were officially non-partisan, 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 around the beginning of the 20th 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, none of whom gained their seats in general elections — all either won by-elections or became independents after having been elected as a member of a party.

The last person to be directly elected to Parliament as an independent in New Zealand was Winston Peters, who won a 1993 by-election in Tauranga. By the time of the next general election, he had formed his own party, and thus was no longer standing as an independent. Since that time, all independents in Parliament have been those originally elected under a party banner. Some, like Peters, 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 is one independent MP in the current Parliament, Hone Harawira, who was elected as a Māori Party candidate but has now been re-elected as representative of his new political party, Mana, in a by-election. This followed his leaving the Maori party in the course of the current term due to a dispute with his party organisation. There are also two parties which have only a single MP — the Progressives with Jim Anderton and United Future with Peter Dunne. Neither Anderton nor Dunne are classed as independents, but their presence in Parliament is due not to votes for their respective parties but to personal votes in their home electorates, and their status may change if their respective party infrastructures ceased to exist.


In Niue, there have been no political parties since 2003, and all politicians are de facto independents. The government depends on an informal coalition.


Polish Sejm election ordination in practice does not allow lone candidates to run. Tickets always have multiple candidates as every district is represented by multiple Sejm Members. Hence, almost all tickets are partisan. However, during a Sejm term many Sejm Members switch parties or become independents.

Tickets like Civic Platform during the 2001 election were formally non-partisan, Civic Platform was widely viewed as a de facto political party, as it is now.

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. However, only Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz is independent.

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, but also resigned from the party on getting elected.


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, senators had also resigned from their respective parties to become independents; currently there are 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 as a member of 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 are required by law to spend less than candidates nominated by a party.


All of Russia's Presidents have been independents. Current President Dmitry Medvedev was offered to join United Russia but politely declined, saying that he believes the President should be an independent so that he serves the interests of the country rather than his political party.

Vladimir Putin, the current prime minister of Russia, is the head of the United Russia party, but is not its member, thus formally is independent.

United Kingdom

Independent Members of Parliament were once frequently elected in the United Kingdom, but they have been much less successful in the last half-century. (See List of UK minor party and independent MPs elected.)

One independent MP was elected in the 2010 election:

Two independent or local party MPs were elected in the 2005 election:

There have also been several instances of MPs being elected under the auspices of a particular party, then resigning the party whip, or having it withdrawn: examples in the 2005-2010 parliament included Clare Short and Robert Wareing (formerly Labour) and Derek Conway (formerly Conservative).

News reporter Martin Bell was elected as an Independent MP for Tatton from 1997 to 2001 having stood on an anti-corruption platform.

The House of Lords includes a large number of independent peers, who are usually known as crossbenchers.

The introduction of directly elected mayors in several parts of England has witnessed the election of independent candidates to run councils in Stoke-on-Trent, Middlesbrough, Bedford, Hartlepool and Mansfield. The first Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, was originally elected as an independent, having run against the official Labour candidate Frank Dobson. He was subsequently re-admitted to the Labour Party 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.

Independent candidates frequently stand in parliamentary elections, often with platforms about specific local issues, but usually with little success. A typical example from the 2001 general election was when Aston Villa supporter Ian Robinson stood as an independent candidate in the Sutton Coldfield constituency, in protest at the way chairman Doug Ellis ran the club. Another example, in the Salisbury constituency, of an independent candidate is Arthur Uther Pendragon - British activist and self-declared reincarnation of King Arthur.

At 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.

Other independent candidates are associated with a political party and may be former members of it, but are not able to stand under its label. For instance, after being expelled from the Labour Party but before joining the Respect Coalition, British Member of Parliament (MP) George Galloway described himself as "Independent Labour".

A third category of independents are those who may belong to or support a political party but believe they should not formally represent it and thus be subject to its policies. This was common among members of most political parties for the purpose of British local government elections until the last quarter of the twentieth century.

Some independents in the United Kingdom have registered locality-based political parties. British examples include Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern, Epsom and Ewell Residents Association, Loughton Residents Association, Derwentside Independents, East Yorkshire Independents ; many are local residents' or ratepayers' associations that contest elections. They are usually considered independent as they have no alignment in national politics.

On 23 March 2005 the Independent Network was set up to support independent candidates in the General Election.[2] The Independent Network still supports Independent candidates in local, regional, national and European elections. It has an organic set of principles 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, Sir Paul Judge established the Jury Team, an umbrella organisation dedicated to increasing the number of Independent candidates standing in the UK, both in domestic and European elections.[3]

United States


Historically, George Washington was the only president elected as an independent, as he was not formally affiliated with any party during his two terms.

John Tyler was expelled from the Whig Party in September 1841, and remained effectively an independent for the remainder of his presidency, later returning to the Democrats. He briefly sought re-election in 1844 as a National Democrat, but withdrew as he feared to split the Democratic vote.

Recent prominent independent candidates for president of the United States include John Anderson in 1980, Ross Perot in 1992, and Ralph Nader in the 2004 and 2008 elections. In 2008, independent Presidential candidate, Ralph Nader formed Independent Parties in New Mexico, Delaware, and elsewhere to gain ballot access in several states. This strategy has been pursued by several 'independent' candidates for Federal races, including Joe Lieberman (Connecticut for Lieberman), because in some states it is easier to gain ballot access by creating a new political party than to gather signatures for a nominating petition.


Illinois, Maine, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Minnesota are the only states to have elected formally independent candidates as governor: Illinois' 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; and Sam Houston in 1859 from Texas. Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. is sometimes mentioned as an independent governor, though this is not technically correct; he ran as 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, losing the election by only 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 Maine. 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 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).


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 nineteenth century, and Harry F. Byrd, Jr. of Virginia (who had been elected to his first term as a Democrat) in the twentieth 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 or Virgil Goode of Virginia. 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 Democrat, while Goode switched to Republican.

Representative Bernie Sanders 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 a former Democrat who ran, like Lowell P. Weicker, Jr., under a third party (Connecticut for Lieberman Party) in the 2006 election. Though both representatives are technically independent politicians, they caucus with the Democrats. In 2006, Sanders and Lieberman were the only two victorious independent candidates for Congress.

State and local offices

In August 2008, there were twelve people who held offices as independents 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.[4] 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.[5]


On 15 June 1992, Dobrica Ćosić was elected Federal President as first non-partisan head of state in Yugoslav history. Ćosić held the position until 1 June 1993, when he was removed from the position.

See also

Notes and references


a. ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Serbia and the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo. The latter declared independence on 17 February 2008, while Serbia claims it as part of its own sovereign territory. Its independence is recognised by 85 UN member states.


External links

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