New Danish green party steps onto a crowded playing-field

As support for strong climate policy has been growing, so has the number of green parties in the Danish political landscape. Despite fertile ground, the parties may face challenges in a coming election

By Simon B. Porse

On Monday people gathered at Blågårds Plads in the easternmost part of Nørrebro, Copenhagen, to witness the press conference announcing the newly established political party The Independent Greens.

Among the cameras, reporters and supporters, party-leader Sikandar Siddique painted a clear picture.

“We are an attack against the power, against oppressors, racists, and against the large companies, that grow richer at the expense of our nature and our children,” he told.

The party describes itself as not only ‘climate-responsible’, but also anti-racist and uncompromising.

Renegade representatives

Headed by the 43-year old MP Sikandar Siddique and his colleagues Uffe Elbæk and Susanne Zimmer, the party already has some experience and presence in the gilded halls of the Danish parliament.

The three were elected in 2019 for the party The Alternative but quit the party in March, after a conflict spurred by allegations of aggressive behaviour by the newly elected party leader, Josephine Fock – leaving the Alternative with only a single member in the ruling body of the country.

Since the split in the party voter support for The Alternative has been steadily declining, newer polls estimating less than a percent of the votes.

A crowded green niche

The changing climate and environmental devastation have become increasingly critical issues for the Danish voters.

A voter-study done in May last year, showed that climate- and environmental politics was the top priority among voters – surpassing both health and immigration.

This growing support for strong climate-policies has opened a space for innovative ideas in the political landscape – and the Independent Greens are only the newest in a line of new parties pandering to this tendency.

Besides the Alternative, who first entered the parliament at the election in 2015 with a whopping  4.8 pct., the newcomers in The Vegan Party have already gathered enough signatures to take part in the next general election.

(How does a party get accepted to join the election? Watch the video below!)

The appearance of the new green parties is an expression of the apperarance of a sort of identity-politics, says Ditte Shamshiri-Petersen, lecturer at the Institute for Politics and Society at Aalborg University.

“For many years politics have been centered around economic rationales. Now we are seeing, that a more values-focused dimension has been developing,” she says.

In this tendency, a political party may focus its work on a few topics.

The party does not have policies ‘on every shelf’, Sikandar Siddique told reporters on Monday.

“And we probably never will,” he continued. “Our analysis is, that some things are just more important than others.”

This is in contrast to some of the more established parties in the so-called red-green bloc, which have political plans on most if not all topics.

It is clear, explains Ditte Shamshiri-Petersen, that there is a segment of the voters, that will support the more limited political program, but she does not expect the Independent Greens to attract wide support.

“The point of these parties is not, that they have a broad appeal. They are acting as niché parties, and will not become new, broad mass parties.”

A waste of votes

In order to gain seats in the parliament a party has to surpass a minimum of two percent of the votes in the general election. This limit has continually posed a challenge for newcoming parties.

In the late 1980’s, three parties on the left did not manage to beat the two-percent-minimum. The high number of ‘wasted votes’ meant, that the conservative-liberal bloc received a majority of the sears in parliament, despite having received a minority of the votes.

Wasted votes’ always has some degree of influence on the result of the election, Ditte Shamshiri-Petersen points out, but whether a similar circumstance, where ‘wasted votes’ become a hurdle for the success of the red-green bloc, is likely in the next election, is still much too early to say.

Nonetheless the question of the new parties surpassing the two percent bar remains important to their respective political projects.

“If the green parties are competing over the same votes, the same segment, it may have an impact on their viability – on whether they are even able get off the ground.”

Whether three, two, one or none of the green parties manage to gain seats in the next election is yet to be seen, but Ditte Shamshiri-Petersen makes it clear, that they have a chance.

“From what we know about the voters right now, I definitely believe, there is space for a party like the Independent Greens.”