In politics, an independent is a politician who is not affiliated with any political party. Independents may hold a centrist viewpoint between those of major political parties, or they may have a viewpoint based on issues that they do not feel that any major party addresses. 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. 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.
Currently, three independents sit in the Australian House of Representatives: Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor from New South Wales and Bob Katter from Queensland - all three are former members of the National Party.
Independent Senators are quite rare. In modern politics, Brian Harradine had considerable influence in the Senate, as well as Nick Xenophon, following his election to the Senate in the 2007 federal election.
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 Prime Minister Martin 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. However another independent candidate, André Arthur, was elected in the Quebec riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, and was the only independent to win a seat in that election. The overall election was won by the Conservative Party, but with another minority. The combined Conservative and NDP seats in parliament currently amount to 154 out of a total of 308, meaning that if the Conservatives and NDP vote together, Arthur too may find himself holding the balance of power.
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.
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.
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 (however he was still close to the party), as Lech Kaczyński, who was the first leader of Law and Justice, did after he got elected.
Two independent MPs were elected in the 2005 UK general election: Peter Law (MP for Blaenau Gwent), who died on April 25, 2006, and Richard Taylor, sole MP of the Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern party (for the Wyre Forest constituency). Dr Richard Taylor's election to Parliament is most notable for the fact that he is the only independent in recent times to have been re-elected for a second term. Since Peter Law's death, the by-election has yielded another independent MP - Dai Davies. News reporter Martin Bell was elected as an Independent MP for Tatton from 1997 to 2001 having stood on an anti-corruption platform.
The introduction of directly elected mayors in several parts of the UK 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 Aldershot constituency, of an independent candidate is King Arthur Pendragon - a notorious local who walks around town in long white robes with a long grey beard and a sword he claims to be Excalibur.
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. UK examples include Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern, Epsom and Ewell Residents Association, Loughton Residents' Association, Derwentside Independents; many are local residents' or ratepayers' associations that contest elections. They are usually considered independent as they have no alignment in national politics.
John Tyler was expelled from the Whig Party in September 1841, and remained effectively an independent for the remainder of his presidency, later becoming a Democrat. He briefly sought re-election in 1844 as a National Democrat, but withdrew as he feared to split the Democratic vote.
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.
Representative Bernie Sanders was an independent member of the United States House of Representatives for Vermont-at-large from 1991 to 2006. 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 after losing the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont. Though both representatives are technically independent politicians, they caucus with the Democrats.
In 2006, there were seven major independent candidates for statewide office including successful runs for the U.S. Senate by Bernie Sanders and Joseph Lieberman. In Maine, state legislator Barbara Merrill (formerly a Democrat) made the gubernatorial ballot, while retired college professor Bill Slavick ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. In Massachusetts, wealthy convenience store owner and former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board member Christy Mihos ran for Governor. Finally, in Texas, country music singer and mystery novelist Kinky Friedman and State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn both ran for Governor splitting the ballot four ways between themselves and the two major parties.
In November of 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.