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Germany

Bavarian Free Voters Party Steals Votes from CSU in Election

The conservative CSU party has lost its majority in the Bavarian state parliament for the first time since 1954. Many of the votes went to another conservative party, the Free Voters.

Gabriele Pauli

Gabriele Pauli joined the Free Voters Party earlier this year

The Freie Waehler, or Free Voters, won 10.2 percent of the vote, surprising everyone, including themselves. The election result now makes them the third strongest party in Bavaria, behind the once mighty CSU and the Social Democrats.

The Free Voters have contested two previous Bavarian state elections but failed on both occasions to win the five percent required to enter parliament.

“We've been wall flowers for long enough,” said the party's state chairman, Hubert Aiwanger, after the results from Sunday's election came through.

“We're a force that Bavaria has long waited for,” he added.

The Freie Waehler, or Free Voters, won 10.2 percent of the vote, surprising everyone including themselves. The election result now makes them the third strongest party in Bavaria, behind the once mighty CSU and the Social Democrats.

The Free Voters have contested two previous Bavarian state elections but failed on both occasions to win the five percent required to enter parliament.

"We've been wall flowers for long enough," said the party's state chairman, Hubert Aiwanger, after the results from Sunday's election came through.

"We're a force that Bavaria has long waited for," he added.

The main CSU party now has to find a coalition partner to form a government. The liberal Free Democrats Party (FDP) is considered the most likely contender. With eight percent polled, the FDP will enter parliament for the first time in 14 years. The Free Voters are considered the second best option, and Hubert Aiwanger has not ruled out working with the CSU.

Surprise success

The party's success this time around could be linked to one of its newest members: Gabriele Pauli. She joined the party earlier this year, after leaving the CSU in controversial circumstances last year.

It was partly due to her that former CSU leader Edmund Stoiber left the party. She'd openly criticised Stoiber, and commentators are now asking whether this was the start of the CSU's downward spiral.

With Pauli on board, the Free Voters received much more coverage in the media, at a time when voters were looking away from the CSU.

In terms of policy, the Free Voters don't differ greatly from the main CSU party. But in terms of structure, the Free Voters are miles apart. They consider themselves a grassroots organization, and don't have the same hierarchical structures as other political parties. Their only ideology, they say, is that they are not a party.

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