A political alternative
The Alternative has shocked political Denmark winning 9 seats in parliament. Party leader Uffe Elbæk surprised everyone, including political commentators, some parodizing "Earth is calling", labeling the project as loony. On election night, Elbæk replied in style, sarcastically chanting, "Earth is calling", promoting the party´s environment focus.
It was not an easy task convincing people to vote for the new party The Alternative. Uffe Elbæk's party is now in parliament with 9 seats, which according to political election researcher Robert Clemmensen of University of South Denmark is: "completely crazy".
Simply put, the party focuses on green energy and strengthening the entrepreneurial culture in Denmark.
Elbæk himself says that The Alternative is like the Social Liberal party, but more left wing and socialist. Which apparently paid off, earning the party 4,9 percent of the votes. The left-wing socialist position is in itself not a solid base, said Professor of Political Science at Aarhus University, Rune Stubager prior to the election: "I don't think there are enough votes in saying that we have to encourage a more green-red society, and that the entrepreneurs have to have it easier."
He was proven wrong.
Not enough political experience
History shows that new parties have a very hard time breaking through the magical limit of the two per cent of the votes required to obtain seats in parliament at a general election. But, as with everything else, Elbæk offered an alternative outcome.
"So far, it sounds like a party like the Social Liberal, with a twist. And I personally don't think that's enough. Forming a new party is a massive task. It requires candidates with authority and professionalism. Think how long it took Liberal Alliance to succeed. Now they have seats and will be part of a potential liberal government, but it took time. There is a high mortality rate when it comes to new parties." said Stubager before the election.
He´s not the only commentator who was proven wrong though, pretty much every commentator was. Robert Clemmensen admits his wrong forecast. "Now I just have to take back every bad thing I´ve ever said about them, because this is crazy," he says.
Elbæk did have the advantage of being an insider, making it easier for him to get publicity, but it was still a tough task he had to overcome, and he did.
An alternative was needed
"I think that the fact that so many people are tired of politics being all numbers and discussions about numbers, definitely helped The Alternative. When they were confronted with a missing 27,5 billion pounds in their plan to lower the working week hours to 30, they replied: Well what does that matter when we have a surplus on the cultural balance?. I don´t think the IMF will be too impressed with that, or the EU, if they have to borrow money," Clemmensen says.
The Alternative has truly lived up to their name, offering a true alternative, and the people took it. Elbæk made his entrance to The Alternative´s election celebrations to the tones of his favourite song; Love is in the air´.
"Of course we think this is absolutely outstanding. All I can say is there is going to be a good party here. It has been a wonderful journey, everyone said we stood no chance, and now it seems a lot of Danes want a different political discourse and culture," Elbæk said to Tv2 News on the night of the election.
Competition had to screw up
Prior to the election, Stubager pointed to the competition having to screw up in order for the Alternative to stand a chance. "I have a hard time seeing how this is supposed to go well. The problem will be finding a distinct profile in comparison to the government and especially the Social Liberals. The most important thing is that the party finds a niche that the other parties simply don't have a strong policy on," he said.
That didn´t seem to be the case, in fact, it seems as though their voters just genuinely wanted an Alternative.
Especially the Social Liberalist party lost voters to The Alternative, with 27 per cent of the Alternative votes coming from them.
The people wanted dream parties
According to political analyst from leading newspaper Politiken Sigge Winther Nielsen, the voters went for what he calls ´dream parties´, consisting of libertarian Liberal Alliance, left-wing party The Red-Green Alliance, right-wing party and big winner of the election Danish Peoples Party, and last but not least, The Alternative.
"The four parties make an odd group. But they share a mutual language. They offer something different to the standing, the power parties. They´ve used the public disgust for politicians as a catalyzer for capturing votes," he says.
Thinking politics in a whole new way, and not speaking the same language as everyone else benefitted The Alternative. But they were also granted a lot of room without being challenged, which gave them an easier playground, according to
"I think they´ve done very well in the campaign - results don´t lie. But they have been fortunate with the public disgust of politicians, they benefitted from that, and the fact that they argue in favour of change, results in no one daring to challenge them on that," he says.
Before the election Sigge Winther-Nielsen believed that The Alternative was in the same position the Red-Green Alliance found themselves in, in 2007.
Back then, the Red-Green Alliance was balancing on the barring limit of two per cent, and that meant that a lot of voters who did not favour the party, voted for them to keep them from being eliminated from parliament.
In this election, the Red-Green Alliance won the most seats in the party´s history, earning 14 seats. The Alternative might face a bright future.
Defining the agenda
It is going to take a scientological sales manoeuvre for him to stand a small chance of defining the political agenda, Winther-Nielsen said before the election.
Not only did he have to convince voters to vote for The Alternative, he had to convince them to think politics in a new way.
"The voters have to change their political belief system. Left wing and right wing belong in the past. Democracy and participation has to be rethought. That is quite the task."
Sigge Winther-Nielsen listed four things that had to happen for The Alternative to have a chance of getting into parliament.
1) Elbæk has to win a seat in Copenhagen. Copenhagen is where The Alternative are strongest, and the last time he ran, he got a decent result there.
2) The Alternative had to nail an agenda. They almost have to own an agenda. An example being the growing distrust in politicians. Elbæk had to be part of the solution to that problem.
3) Elbæk had to excel in the national television debates. He could in no way afford to play a slow game, he had to be precise and set the agenda every time. And most importantly, specify what his solutions will mean for the Danish people.
4) He had to hope for a landslide win for the red wing or an extremely tight election.
Check - the closest election possible.
"It is doubtful whether Elbæk can succeed. Even though he is a breath of fresh air, the project can easily end without public backing", Winther-Nielsen concluded prior to the election.
He stands corrected.
Whether L. Ron Hubbard reappears or The Alternative would win seats in parliament, the latter did seem more likely. And without divine intervention, Elbæk yet again succeeded.