If we ask the experts (these days, political experts in the media are invariably “communications experts”), Fælleslisten’s chances of making it to the Folketing are negligible. The reason? There are two, according to our experts: The party (which strictly speaking does not exist yet) lacks a full political programme and a charismatic leader.
The political programme issue was the subject of a recent interview with Leif Hornshøj, the leader of Fælleslisten in its present form, on DR2’s Deadline. No, FL does not have a clear position on the Danish presence in Afghanistan, the party is sort of anti-federalist when it comes to the EU and we’ve learnt later that the position on the early retirement benefit is … both ways.
But can you make it to parliament with a purely negative programme?
As it is, it has happened a couple of times. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, the Justice Party (Retsforbundet) was relatively successful in a number of elections due to its free-market and (especially) anti-rationing message. Similarly, in the 1970s the Progress Party was against taxes and bureaucrats. The realism and political efficacy of both parties was more than questionable but under the right (or wrong) circumstances, their negative message attracted voters.
If you are curious about foreign policy, the Justice Party included both pacifists and pro-NATO members. This was potentially a big deal in the 1950s. Similarly, the Progress Party originally announced that the Danish defence should be replaced by an answering machine telling a potential invader that “we surrender”. People loved it.
Still, the Justice Party and the Progress Party thrived in situations where the conflict lines between the established parties were difficult to discern – at least on issues such as free trade (1950s) and taxes (1970s). That the Danish electorate since the 1930s has included a pool of 5-10 percent potential protest voters should also be considered. But FL’s best choice is probably to enter the ring with all guns blazing and concentrate on infrastructure and public services.
Then there is the issue of leadership. Ordinary parties can indulge in less than inspiring leaders (Bendt Bendtsen, anyone?) but a protest party definitively needs somebody who knows how to work the media. The Justice Party had Viggo Starcke and the Progress Party Mogens Glistrup, both gifted media manipulators. Starcke thanked people for letting him into their homes (via the radio), Glistrup enriched the Danish language with skrankepaver, papirnussere and whatnot. Judged from his performances on tv, Leif Hornshøj is neither a Starcke nor a Glistrup, so FL does have a problem here. The party, just like FOKUS (remember them? No not the Dutch rock group) isn’t ready for the big time in national media yet. I think that FL’s prospects would be better if the party could find a way to mobilise outside of national media – but we people from the centre tend to forget things like local radio which is a force to be reckoned with outside of the larger cities.
When it comes to the formation of new parties on a national level, I tend to be sceptical: The death rate is formidable and generally it takes extraordinary situations for a new party to succeed. That Ny Alliance made it to parliament in 2007 should be a warning sign for the established parties (even if LA has zero chance of attracting people outside of the financial districts in Denmark) as it reflected a lack of loyalty towards the government among its electorate.
I’m not really sure that we are in a time of major realignments, though, so my guess is that FL will find it very hard to succeed at the national level.